Category Archives: dance music

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 20 Years On

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Today, August 25, 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, a groundbreaking album that redefined feminine expression in hip-hop and influenced artists across many genres. Of course, everyone into popular music knows about the incomparable Lauryn Hill, former member of The Fugees who scorched airwaves with their infectious blend of reggae, hip-hop and RnB. But it was Lauryn who stood out with her seductive soulful crooning and natural beauty.

Summer of 1998: I was a full-blown raver, heavily into house and techno. There was always a room dedicated to hip-hop/DnB at raves; heck, even Run DMC made a guest appearance! At the time, I was dating a Chinese Canadian fellow raver, who was a bigger fan of hip-hop than I was. One day, while hanging out at his house, he turned to me and said, “Have you heard The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill?” I hadn’t, and I was too hyped up about the rave happening later on that night to really think about anything else. He gave me this look that veered somewhere between exasperation and annoyance, tempered with a sort of steely determination.“You have to listen to this.” Before I could escape, he clamped his headphones onto my ears and pressed Play.

After Intro, “Lost Ones” dropped like a feathered suckerpunch of sweetness. Lauryn Hill’s voice sounded like rich dark chocolate wrapped in gold tin foil, oozing all over my consciousness as she spat out a scathing rebuke to a wayward lover with elegant precision, backed by booming polyrhythmics. I was speechless, practically glued to Jeff’s bed, not from the usual excitement but from genuine shock. I had never heard music like this, ever! Sure, I had heard “Doo Wop” and seen the video but this album…this was something fresh, authentic and utterly compelling. “See?” Jeff said as he registered my reaction, and smiled, satisfied that he’d spread the gospel. For the next hour, I was wrapped up in Lauryn’s world, her stories of motherhood, relationships, heartbreak and triumphant awareness. As I read the liner notes, seeing Lauryn’s involvement in practically every aspect of the album, I realized Ms. Hill had arrived. She was exceptional, smart, gorgeous and she sure as hell did not need The Fugees. Here was a woman who knew exactly who she was and blowing minds with her artistry.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill set the music industry ablaze. The press just couldn’t seem to get enough of her! She was showered with praise, accolades, awards, money. Here on out, the world was Lauryn’s oyster. She could have done absolutely anything she wanted to but she seemed to reject fame and the whole world. Apparently, she gazed into the shell, inspected the pearl and found it rather lackluster. Shortly after, reports began to emerge of erratic behavior, she stopped making albums and got busy making babies. Lots of them! I was somewhat puzzled, but realized she had her battles.

There was even the lawsuit that seemed to indicate that The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was not properly credited to others working on the album. At the same time, I wondered if somehow she was not hurting her own success. It was hard to tell. Lauryn’s tunes were still getting airplay years later. Songs like X-Factor, To Zion, Everything is Everything were still dance club and radio staples. Life went on but people were still eagerly awaiting the next Lauryn Hill album, if it ever came. I learned not to hold my breath for that. Here was a woman, happy in her own skin, owning her decisions and certainly living life by her own defiant standards. Lauryn Hill did not ever have to make another album if she didn’t want to, but if The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was the only one we would get out of her, we had to consider ourselves damn lucky!

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20 years later, we are still feeling the ripple effect of this seminal album. Now that women’s rights are trending, especially in arts and entertainment, I can appreciate even more fully Lauryn’s underappreciated genius at that time. Sure she’s not perfect, but she stood up against an industry that wanted to misappropriate her success. She chose to have a baby when others were telling her to have an abortion because it would damage her blossoming career. That shows integrity and strength of character that few possess in that particular world. Lauryn Hill understood that there’s more to life than fame and money, and she chose Life. She is alive and it seems she is happy with the choices she made and what she had to sacrifice in order to create a safe, healthy space for herself and what matters most to her.

As a woman, I think The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was a clever backlash against the expectations Lauryn had of life and relationships, versus the steep learning curve of reality. She crafted her story so skillfully that heads are still bopping decades later and people still pay to see her. Younger generations speak of her with admiration, judging from the countless reproductions of the iconic album cover in contemporary art. Let’s be happy we have such a gifted artist and fine example of Afrocentric womanhood in our midst. The world is a much better place for it!

Copyright © 2018 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

 

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Cool Music Videos I Somehow Missed

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Hey y’all, I’m back! Somehow I continue to surprise myself by still having something to say on this blog. That being said, if ya haven’t noticed, time goes by really, really fast! So fast, sometimes you miss a lotta good stuff! Here’s my pick of amazing vintage videos that I’ve seen for the first time very recently. One of them, “Spacer,” is a song that I never heard either until now. Life is full of surprises and that’s why Frankenrӓver is still here.

“Spacer” by Sheila and B. Devotion (1979) is a disco classic produced by legendary hitmakers Chic (Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards). French singer Annie Chancel sings about her intergalactic love affair with an extraterrestrial while Black Devotion dancers Freddy Stracham, Arthur Wilkins and Dany MacFarlane cavort seductively in the background. This is a well-choreographed video steeped in futurism, judging from the stellar props, costume design and slick dance routine. Check out the cyborg at 1:15 which may have inspired that of iconic sci-fi film, Terminator. In our galaxy you can’t trust everyone you meet but one thing for sure is you can trust on-point production values to create a video that stands the test of time.

 

Seems teenaged boys from da hood of Roxbury, Boston got secret fantasies that ain’t so hard to figure out: girls and NBA stardom. The question in this video is which one? Enter New Edition’s “My Secret” (Didja Getit Yet?) Released in 1985 during the giddy years of pop, this has to be one of the cutest videos that escaped my radar back in tha day! Ralph Tresvant is obviously the star of this video, working his bike with wild enthusiasm for the opening sequence. Why, everyone on the corner just loves these talented Black boys who aren’t causing any trouble…just busting moves, getting cute girls of different ethnicities all worked up! Of course, Ralph gets the girl of his dreams and takes her to see an NBA game with the fellas. It’s Lakers vs Blazers and Magic Johnson’s centre court with coach Pat Riley on the sidelines. With the game tied at 124 with 12 seconds on the clock, it seems Magic needs some extra mojo to pull off a victory. So he calls Ralph down to save the day! This entire scene is surrounded by a halo, making it clear that this is a daydream. At the end, Ralph’s dream kinda comes true in a rather endearing, if unlikely way. I’m sure it was the record label’s idea and it actually works here. Though the song is clearly about a guy falling in love with a girl, the video leaves you guessing as it shows Ralph riding off at the end, ecstatic after meeting NBA superstar Magic Johnson. It’s a bromance yo!

 

Classic summer anthem “Vamos a la Playa” by Righeira (1983) has a very interesting background. Although it contains Spanish lyrics, the singers Stefano Rota and Stefano Righi are Italian. Both languages are pretty similar to begin with, so it was a no-brainer to pick Spanish since more peeps speak it globally than Italian. This video is a perfect primer on 80’s fashions for men: high-waisted baggy pants, short sleeved stripey shirts clashing with patterned ties. Fun! The polarized neon tint symbolizes a nuclear explosion that has just gone off in the ocean. But not to worry: now the water is clean because the fish are gone, plus baskers are wearing sombreros to keep radioactive wind out of their hair. That’s a pretty deep sociological statement about our messed up world but damn, what a cool video!

 

Last week, I plugged these words I remembered from a song in my childhood  into a search engine: “On the double, think I’m in trouble.” And googlemonster responded with “Trouble” by Lindsey Buckhingham. Astonishing. Who else could compose an alt-pop song of such transcendent quality? Lindsey Buckingham, that’s who! The mercurial frontman of Fleetwood Mac dropped this timeless bomb from solo album Law and Order in 1981. Like a time-travelling cyborg, it found me in the future and detonated a delightful blast in me brain. I love the playful contrast implied between good and bad, seduction and restraint symbolized by guitar gods on one side, demon drummers on another. Bandmate Mick Fleetwood makes a wonderful guest appearance with his tall, funny self. And Lindsey’s guitarpicking is superb. This dreamy number is now a permanent staple on my playlist.

 

“Gotta Go Home” (1979) by Boney M. is one of the most gorgeous videos I’ve ever seen. Extravagant colourful costumes, sparkly special effects plus steelband players in space-themed outfits equal mindblowing visuals. Makes you long for sandy beaches and island breeze, miles away from big city bustle. This song was produced by the notorious Frank Farian, who ruthlessly exploited people of African descent to front his musical numbers. Although Boney M. was a wildly successful act, only 2 of the band members, Marcia Barrett and and Liz Mitchell actually sang on the early records; the male vocals were recorded by Farian in the studio. So Bobby Farrell, the Black male dancer was simply there to do what Frank Farian could not: look super.

80’s pop sensation Milli Vanilli was another infamous casualty of Farian’s controversial shell group practice. It’s entirely possible Milli Vanilli was inspired to run in one place for their “Girl You Know It’s True” video like Bobby Farrell does here at 4:22. We know they didn’t get very far. But I digress. No matter how it came together, “Gotta Go Home” is a great song and this is an awesome video. Rock on!

Copyright © 2018 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

Nebula Starway’s Parang Experiment

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Once upon a time, I was part of a musical experiment known as Nebula Starway. In 2010 along with my partner Emil Z. I co-produced this house-inspired cover of parang classic, “Rio Manzanares” originally recorded by Trinidadian group, Paramininos.  This is by no means a pristine production. Nebula Starway had very little money so we recorded this track in a bedroom studio with a homemade soundbooth and software including Sony ACID and Traktor. In hindsight, I would reduce the lengthy intro and add more background vocs, among other things. The meatiest part of the song comes at 4:26 with a jubilant percussion jam arranged primarily by Frankie Diamond. Pandeiro, shekere, cowbell, handclaps, whistles…I cut loose and had a blast!!!! It was my idea to cover “Rio Manzanares” as a tribute to parang and also to experiment combining it with house music. It’s not a perfect endeavour but Nebula Starway learned a lot. Plus it’s fun to sing in Spanish!

Here we have a Venezuelan duo playing bandola, a close relative of the cuatro which is a four-stringed guitar utilized in parang. This video demonstrates the Latin-American roots of this folkloric artform that is now popular in Trinidad and Tobago. The close proximity of Venezuela to these twin Caribbean islands birthed a cultural crossover, despite the fact that TnT is an English speaking nation. Moral of the story is great music transcends language barriers. And of course, Trinbagonians took it and ran with it all the way to…

THE CURRYSHOP!

Indian singing sensation Sharlene Boodram mashed up the airwaves with salacious hit, “Mamacita” (1991). A classic example of chutney parang, this song blends South Asian themes with soca-infused parang. Santa gets a Curry Christmas, courtesy of Mamacita who gets caught cooking paratha (Indian flatbread) for her celebrity midnight guest. Say wha!!! This tune boils over with culinary references to spicy South Asian staples like roti and dhal, all set against cheeky humour. Which leaves one with the impression that there’s something hotter than curry cooking between Santa and Mamacita! Delicious, delightful and daring, “Mamacita” is an appetizing number that still sizzles 26 years after release.

Copyright © 2017 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

Parang: A Christmas Tradition

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A charismatic form of Christmas folk music from Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago, Parang was invented some centuries ago. The word parang is a derivative of the Spanish word “parranda” which refers to merrymaking. Parang are songs in Spanish, usually about Mary (Maria) and the Natividad (birth of Jesus), though there are various types covering different contexts. Instruments consist mainly of violin, cuatro, maracas, mandolin, bandolin, clave, box bass and flute. In more recent times, the electric bass and steelpan have been sometimes incorporated. Parang is traditionally performed by parranderos, a group of musicians who go from house to house, singing and playing in exchange for food and drink. Some pastel, sweetbread, ponche a crème or a shot of rum is greatly appreciated. Laughter and conversation with the occupants of the home ensue before the parranderos move onto the next home and repeat the process. So you can imagine how these musicians must feel after 4 hours of serenading. Pretty merry and belly full to buss!

Parang is a beautiful tradition, rooted in the spirit of altruism and kinship. Parranderos are often very poor, yet refuse to accept money for their serenades. Parang comes from the heart, for love of music, having a good time and religious deference for the spiritual tradition of Christmas. Fortunately, this folk music has grown in popularity, especially in the latter portion of the 20th century, fuelled by the advent of independent record labels plus performances broadcast by the now defunct TTT; Trinidad and Tobago Television. Spicy subgenres that have sprung up include soca parang and chutney parang, often about humorous topics in typical Trinidadian vernacular.

Due to the increasing crime rate in Trinidad and Tobago, I’ve heard that parranderos have drastically decreased their serenading. In the rural villages of Lopinot, Paramin and Arima, parang serenading is still practiced in the relative safety of tightknit communities. For parang lovers at large, there are local Parang festivals, competitions and concerts that are well-attended by the general public. Even expats living abroad in North America can enjoy the occasional concert by touring parranderos during the holiday season.

Parang has a complex history, fusing elements of West African and Latin American musicality to create an enduring artform  that has widespread, multigenerational appeal. Frankenrӓver presents a small selection of recorded classics for your enjoyment. Take time off from your hectic holiday schedule to appreciate parang while remembering to enjoy the simple pleasures  – good times, love, laughter, – embodied by this dynamic artform.

Beloved classic “Alegría Alegría” by Trinidad’s Queen of Parang, Daisy Voisin holds a place of affection in many people’s hearts. One of the most recognizable voices in parang, Daisy Voisin was known for her sweet intonation, inspired whoops “Aiee aiee!”and her bouquet, which she held in one hand as she sang, danced and twirled her extravagant skirts. A staunch traditionalist who focused on the religious aspect of parang, Daisy Voisin performed parang entirely in Spanish backed by her band, La Divina Pastora Serenaders. I was fortunate to have seen her in concert and was touched by her humility, passion and devotion to her craft, though her financial difficulties were evident. Daisy Voisin has one of the most moving voices I have ever heard and is a stellar example of a beautiful human being. She paved the way for other musicians to have successful careers recording parang in subsequent generations and deserves far more recognition for her cultural and social contributions.

Recorded by calypsonian Crazy (Edwin Ayoung) and released in 1980, “Muchacha” was an instant hit, gaining heavy rotation on local airwaves. This upbeat number fuses soca with salsa, parang, and some pop elements via synths. The result is a bright, sparkly song filled with the trademark humour Crazy is known for. “Muchacha” is a prime example of contemporary parang featuring English lyrics. Crazy holds the distinction for pioneering new forms of soca, including soca parang and Trini-style reggae. He was a very energetic performer whose distinctively long, voluminous hair  and colourful stage presence mesmerized audiences back in the day and he’s still active now in his 70’s.

“Latin Parang” by Colleen Grant is a most unusual composition. It’s what I’d call disco parang. The looped, salsa-style arrangement of congas, claps, synths and vocals against a mid-tempo backdrop make Latin Parang a very progressive song, coming as it did on the tail-end of the disco era (1980). Essentially, it is dance music with an ambitious arrangement, performed by an obscure singer from Trinidad. Colleen Grant’s quirky Spanish pronunciation of ¡Que me gusta cantar! in the chorus is delightfully haunting, ensuring this hidden musical gem continues to fascinate rare groove aficionados decades on.

Copyright © 2017 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

 

Frankenrӓver Turns 6!

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Source: birthdaywishes.net

My Dear Ecstaticans,

After 6 years, I can’t believe y’all still be reading my blog! In this age of mass distraction, it is no small feat to still have an audience. To be honest, I have thought about annexing the blog. It is now more than 20 years since the rave era began in Toronto. And that’s a sobering reality. I am an adult with real-world responsibilities, yet I still remain a raver at heart!

Evidently my blog needs to evolve in a different direction. Less focus on parties and more attention on quality music that gets lost in the mad shuffle of commercialization. There are so many under-appreciated artists and classic songs that more people should be aware of. To that end, stay tuned for more savoury treats from the bubbling cauldron that is my brain 😉

Speaking of savoury, enjoy this Boiler Room set by Chicago house legend, Roy Davis Jr. Peace out x

Copyright © 2017 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

Roni Size / Reprazent New Forms Turns 20

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20 years ago on this day, June 23rd 1997, seminal album New Forms was released by U.K. drum and bass producer Roni Size and Reprazent, a collective of artistes including Onallee, DJ Krust, Suv, Die and Dynamite MC. The successful mashup of spaced out jazz with hip-hop infused drum and bass earned Size/Reprazent the Mercury Prize in 1997 and heavy hitter status during the 90’s rave era.

I happened upon this album sometime in 1998. “Brown Paper Bag” happened to be playing on a T.V. where I worked and I was hooked. To top it off, the video was shot in Toronto! An extended intro featuring a double bass doing a seductive number with a flirty guitar, like a conversation leading back to bass place…that conversation par excellence helped that song become a bonafide hit. At first I got the single C.D. but later acquired the double disc. And that, in and of itself, was a revelation.

From the head-bopping infectious rhyming of Dynamite MC on “Railing” to the digital staccato burst of “Morse Code”  this mind-blowing album took me on a joyride through superlatively rich soundscapes. “Share The Fall” featuring Onallee’s éclair whipped vocals became a classic DnB anthem. American MC Bahamadia’s hypnotic heist on “Feeling So High” left heads speechless. Clearly, this maverick collaboration was a critical and commercial success. Roni Size graced the cover of several music magazines, somewhat overshadowing the Reprazent crew. Heck, I even saw Size spin at a rave in Toronto (he’d shorn the locks, I was disappointed! His set satisfied me though :).

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Roni Size / Reprazent

It’s fair to say that if you have not heard Disc 2 of New Forms, you are truly missing out. If you listen carefully, it becomes evident that water plays a predominant part in the production. Which is hardly surprising when you consider that Roni Size is Scorpio, a water sign. Moody and playfully mellow, “Down” is anything but. I felt like a leaf, meandering down a burbling brook on an overcast day as the water swirled around me. Skillful breakbeats layered with jazzy instrumentals, strategic looping and clever phasing give this double album an atmospheric feel that is unparalleled. It is full of textures, ranging from mysteriously edgy to effervescent. I love playing it on a rainy day as it amplifies that warm cozy feeling that makes me glad to be indoors with a hot cuppa tea, getting a proper rinsing!

20 years later, I still listen to New Forms. It sounds every bit as fresh as it did back then. Sure, I have bigger concerns than getting a fresh pair of cargos for the next rave but you know what? It just makes me all the more thankful that I had this amazing experience. Oh, and “Hot Stuff” is going off in the background, which brings to mind supers and laying down in bed, admiring my silver tone bubble chair and my Liquid Adrenaline poster which I will never forgive my mother for accidentally throwing out.

I could go on and on about the cool sound effects on each track like the windchimes on “Ballet Dance” but I suggest you discover this brilliant gem of an album yourself. Or revisit it from a mature perspective. There is much to love and appreciate about New Forms as we evolve over time.

Copyright © 2017 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

 

82 Year Old DJ Sumirock’s Solid

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Let’s face it: at 82, society thinks you’re washed up. Why, you’d be considered lucky if you could knit a scarf and walk to the corner store without falling down. You are old and for the most part invisible, a useless relic of a vibrantly youthful past. Or so they would have us believe.

ENTER DJ SUMIROCK

This senior, seriously funky Japanese citizen is making jaws drop around the world. At an age where most people want the music turned down, she’s turning it up! Sumiko Iwamuro started spinning in her 70’s after her husband passed away and now has a monthly club residency in Tokyo’s infamous red light district. On top of that, she still works as a full-time cook at a Chinese resto which she has been doing for 60 years. I bet she makes a mean teriyaki!

According to CGTN, Iwamuro said, “My setlist is based on music that I feel like dancing to. I’m physically very strong. I stand all day in the kitchen, ride my bicycle home, walk my dog for half an hour so I don’t have a lot of free time. I can deejay at this age because I’m very healthy and I’m very lucky to have a place to work.”

Does this sound like an “old person?” Definitely not! An elderly lady with a taste for techno and dark glasses – most defo!

Kudos to DJ Sumirock for showing us that as long as you have health, you’re never too old to pursue your dream. In a world intent on discarding the elderly and invalidating women especially as we approach middle age, Sumiko Iwamuro defies the narrow minded stupidity of youth obsessed society. As I observe her on the decks, I admire her relaxed approach, calm focus and pure enjoyment, not to mention her sexy outfit!

DJ Sumirock, I hope you get to play in New York someday. You are a brave soul, a true inspiration and I know you will do a fantastic job. Domo arigato!

Copyright © 2017 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

 

Prince: The Dove Has Flown

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Prince has passed away. The aftershock of this seismic occurrence will be felt for some time to come within the music industry and amongst his legions of fans, not to mention his close associates. I, for one, am still coming to terms with the blow of his sudden demise. “Life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last,” as he once famously sang in the hit classic “1999.” Just a week before he died, I had christened my new stereo by playing Purple Rain. And now he’s gone. Surreal.

I am deeply saddened by his death, because he seemed so young with so much life life left to live. It has taken me almost a month to finish this article. Weeks of playing his music, basking in the warmth of his phenomenal talent, processing all his fantastic accomplishments. Now I can accept that he is gone and think about what his legacy means to me.

Let’s face it; Prince’s catalogue is mindboggling. With 39 studio albums, a plethora of bootlegs and hundreds, maybe thousands of unreleased tracks chilling in the vault, the biggest question remains what does this mean for his music? That remains to be seen. Prince was notoriously protective of his work, but his fans are having a field-day judging from the glut of videos on YouTube lately. As a matter of fact, I received a notice from his lawyers to remove footage I`d shot of his Welcome 2 Canada concert in 2011 or have my YouTube account deleted. I complied, wondering how some 2 minute low res clips could possibly pose a threat to Prince. But nonetheless, it was oddly gratifying to receive a warning letter from Team P. I simply wanted to share the experience with those who could not make it. And evidently, there were plenty of people who wanted to see His Royal Badness, seeing how my videos racked up a total of over 7,000 views for 1 glorious week.

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Prince mural on a sidewalk in Toronto, Canada.

Prince was the soundtrack to my adolescence. The first time I remember seeing him was on a Billboard countdown on T.V. He was in the top 5, inching closer to number 1 with “When Doves Cry.” I saw this strange looking dude dressed in purple and a frilly shirt with a morose expression on his face. I didn’t know what to make of him. I couldn’t tell whether he was black or white. I decided not to like him. And then I saw Purple Rain, the movie. I was blown away by this temperamental, stylishly talented musician and the mercurial drama surrounding him. The wardrobe was hip and astonishingly extravagant with lots of lace, big hair and big boobs heaving out of corsets. I liked how he fought with The Revolution, especially with the rather masculine Wendy, and the fact that he mentioned masturbating (!) in Darling Nikki. And how he humped the stage so hard that Apollonia got upset and ran out of the theatre. In a kid’s mind, this was pretty cool stuff.

Shortly thereafter I went to the local record store to buy the tape. It was run by this super cool guy who sort of resembled Prince. Carlos had a permed coif accented with blonde highlights. I had a huge crush on him. So much that I would go into the store and rummage through records, stealing glances at his big dreamy bedroom eyes and moist succulent lips. But of course, I was too young to really know much about sex, except that it was grown up stuff and judging from what went down in Purple Rain…pretty damn confusing too. There was also a pretty girl who worked with Carlos, rocking a similar Afro-punk style. I felt like they were part of some secret society that knew all about the Purple Rain life except me. The tape he sold me was a bootleg. No cover art but I didn’t care. I played the heck out of that cassette, feeling like I had discovered a soulmate, a rebel, someone who understood how I felt. As a bonus, Carlos thoughtfully included part of The Time’s LP on the recording. I loved how Purple Rain would segue into “Jungle Love” straight after the violins. That tape is now lost in the annals of time. The way it shaped my brain development though, will last a lifetime.

Fast forward to 1985, Long Island, New York. I am spending the night with this rather rambunctious girl named T and her mom. T is a HUGE Prince fan. She has the Purple Rain album. We play the record and sing along. I admire the album art, especially the flowers strewn amidst the liner notes. T gives her mom plenty of lip, virtually non-stop sass. I am amazed at just how much American kids can get away with when it comes to talking back to their parents. I feel sorry for her mom who can’t get T to listen or cooperate. The yelling continues. T sprints away, only to run straight into a wall, breaking her hand in the process. Which means T’s track and field meet for tomorrow has just gone up in flames. Her agonizing screams are nerve shattering. T’s mother scolds her soundly, saying that if she had listened, this would not have happened. They go off to the hospital, leaving me alone in the apartment. I get to enjoy the Purple Rain LP in solitude. Nice!

That summer, I acquired “Around The World In A Day.” This time, it is a bonafide recording with cover art. I dig the colourful swirls and funky fonts but above all, I feel the music. It takes me to different worlds that I have never encountered, but Prince and The Revolution make them come alive in my head. I am especially enamoured with “Tambourine.” The tape does not fall apart, no matter how many times I rewind and repeat that song. Little did I know that several years later, my little sister would sneak into my room, bang that tape and subsequently fall in love with it. She confessed to having a similar obsession with Tambourine, a seemingly innocuous song about a musical instrument. Or so I thought back then…

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Rock of ages. Just won`t quit!

1992: I am the 108th caller on a radio contest, thereby winning a pair of tickets to see Prince in addition to The Love Symbol tape. Hardly believing my luck, I phoned my boyfriend and broke the news. “I’m not coming to watch you take your panties off and throw it onstage!” he declared. Seriously dude? Get your mind outta the gutter! “Chances are my panties will land on someone else’s head before it ever gets anywhere near Prince,” I reasoned. Surely he could see the sense in that? Nope. So I invited my aunt instead. She was ecstatic and we went to Maple Leaf Gardens. It was the first time I saw Prince in concert. The atmosphere was raw and electric. He performed sexy MF (he swore!) and Mayte Garcia was stunning. It was one of my happiest moments ever. Needless to say, my panties stayed on. The boyfriend became pop history shortly thereafter.

Circa 1997, my co-worker introduces me to his friend Ed. He thought we would get along because we both love Prince. He’s right. Ed is a Prince fanatic. In fact, we hit it off so well that we become raving buddies. Just imagine Prince brought 2 ravers together! I think Ed was relieved that he could wild out about Alexander Nevermind and I wouldn’t think him odd. Ed had bootlegs, videos, stuff that I’d never heard of or even knew about. Obviously he had the time and energy to keep up with Prince, who could easily drown you in a river of records. I was glad that someone else took care of the legwork while I got to enjoy the benefits. Hey, that’s what friends are for!

Over the years, Prince has brought joy into my life with his music and unique presence. I was fortunate to have seen him perform a number of times. There is no question he is the most talented musician I have ever seen. It is hardly likely that there will be many more of his calibre in our era due to a shifting soundscape. With the advent of technology, there is less appreciation and effort made to produce recordings with live instruments. The beauty of Prince was his ability to marry tech (synths, drum machines) with a solid musical foundation of funk, pop, rock and soul. He owned his sound and his style. He drew mass attention to injustice within the industry during his infamous battle with Warner Bros. Back then, I didn’t understand what he was so upset about but I sure as hell do now.

Thank you, Prince, for teaching me so much about myself. Your passing gave me pause for consideration. It made me take an honest look at life. I felt sad, not just because you are gone, but because I never took the time to consider your pain as a human being. You were larger than life but you weren’t exempt from suffering; just better at transcending it than most. A true inspiration and shining example for humans to be their exceptional best. I Wish U Heaven.

Copyright © 2016 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

 

 

 

Bowie Bows Out Gracefully

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David Bowie has left the building. And what a legacy he has bequeathed the world in his wake!

I am not about to dissect his massive career trajectory or analyse this complex personality that few people ever really knew. Of course he had an impact on numerous genres of music, including electronica. But I shan’t go into that here. Instead I will share how I have experienced him over the years.

I first became aware of who David Bowie was in the 80’s when “Let’s Dance” burned up the airwaves. It was catchy and oh so very different from anything I’d ever heard. My innocent ears were hooked right from the doo wop intro. And David’s richly textured voice and haunting lyrics mesmerized the hell out of my imagination. I actually thought “Let’s Dance” was a love song. It was not until many years later I saw the video, paid attention to the lyrics and realized he was making a heavy statement about the effects of post-colonialism on Aboriginal culture.

Bowie understood how to deliver quite an effective statement using dramatic irony through music. It didn’t matter that I got it 30 something years later. The strength of the song was such that like a mysterious golden thread one finds in a forest, I was compelled to follow its trail to the source. Little did I suspect how deeply it would go or how often it would wind mysteriously.

“Let’s Dance,” the album, introduced David Bowie to my generation. His collaboration with musical alchemist, Chic’s Nile Rodgers as co-producer, cemented this subsequent chapter of continued success.

I need not say how unusual it is for a musician to have such longevity in an industry that regularly chews up talent and spits them out for breakfast. 10 years later, you might catch a former A-lister performing at half-time in the NBA. David’s career spans 50 years. That is longer than I have been alive.

Putting Out Fire, his closing song for “Cat People” (1982) was a strangely soothing finale for a rather frightening film. Veering into adolescence, I found the mix of mysticism, eroticism and violence confusing yet fascinating (hint: my parents should never have let me watch this film!). Nonetheless, I thought this composition captured the essence of what Cat People was about.

And who can ever forget David’s turn as The Goblin King in Labyrinth? I’m sure millions of girls wanted to marry Jareth, even if it meant putting up with his loathsome, smelly minions. A very clever casting decision indeed. Thank God Mick Jagger didn’t get the role! Obviously someone noticed Bowie’s penchant for playing enigmatic characters. Overall, Jareth was a rather ambiguous personality. I knew he was supposed to be bad because he was a goblin and he stole a baby. However, he was also handsome, fun and full of magic. And he could sing! How could The Goblin King be truly evil if he could sing?

I grew up and David Bowie disappeared from my  radar, only to emerge years later with his  marriage to African supermodel Iman. I admired them both, but I was especially intrigued by the interracial element of their union, which was not particularly widespread at David’s level. I thought, “Here is a man with heart and integrity. He doesn’t care what people think.”

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From then on, I occasionally caught glimpses of David when his music was sampled or when he popped up in the news. Generally speaking, I never really heard or saw much of him until the advent of The Prestige (2006), one of the most brilliant films I have ever seen. Directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Michael Caine, Christopher Bale and Hugh Jackman, it is a mindbending masterpiece. Bowie’s interpretation of Nikola Tesla is absolutely stunning. His onscreen charisma is virtually unmatched by any other actor except Marlon Brando in Guys and Dolls. For a long time afterwards, I thought how surprising David was. As a singer/musician, he managed to accomplish a successful acting career, an extremely rare feat. I recognized then that he was a force to be reckoned with.

In 2013, I saw the critically acclaimed exhibit, David Bowie Is while working at The Art Gallery of Ontario. Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei’s show was running simultaneously and it was the craziest, busiest time in the gallery’s history. That experience was a game changer. It was then I discovered the fantastic, versatile, genre bending world of David Bowie. I was surprised to learn that he was making music since the 60’s. Touched that he acknowledged Little Richard as one of his influences. And Jones was his actual surname, not Bowie! His various modalities encompassed theatre, pantomime, commercials, fashion design, computer programming, visual art and more. There were costumes, props, film clips, soundbites, paintings, lyric notes, sketches, storyboards, album covers, a mugshot and a coke spoon. It was mindblowing. I saw it again until I’d had enough. David went over the edge so many times yet somehow, he managed to survive and produce such an amazing treasure trove of art.

I was delighted to discover that Bowie was responsible for a song that I used to hear on the radio during childhood without knowing who the artist was. For the first time, I saw the video for “Blue Jean.” His androgynous, stylish alter-ego captivated me. The way he moved was perfect. I even empathized with his loser nice guy persona trying to impress his gorgeous date. Behind me, the Middle Eastern inspired costume he wore was on display. Security was not around. I caressed the flashy pants and touched the pointy shoes, knowing that David’s fingers once touched them. This was as close as I would ever get to him physically and I was content with that knowledge.

The exhibit made quite an impact on me. Bowie was obviously ahead of his time, yet on point in ushering new trends into the world. Music history is filled with artists that were ahead of their time and died without gaining true recognition. David Bowie is not one of them.

It also occurred to me that now I was getting close to the source of that golden thread I found in the forest. I began to discover that  Bowie sang an astonishing number of songs that I loved over the years, but being so young, I could not make an association then. There is a magic and a mystery to how this enigma unfolded. To this day, I am convinced that I was placed at the AGO specifically so I could learn about David’s legacy. The depth of what I discovered cannot be conveyed so easily, neither is everyone ready to accept it. Not like I care. And David did not care either.

Bowie has left the world so many clues as to what he really was. Yet the majority prefer to remain blissfully unaware.

Last summer, I took my recorder into the forest. After seating myself on a grassy knoll, I played Blue Jean. The atmosphere was peaceful, pensive, perfect. I had an appreciative, yet largely invisible audience. My search for the golden ball of thread had come full circle.

I saw the Blackstar video the day it dropped. It was profound. It shook me up. I did not know he was dying, but I recognized great mysteries were being revealed. I found it remarkable that a man in his 60’s remained absolutely relevant in the music industry, nevermind a society that often invalidates senior citizens. My admiration stepped up a notch.

David Bowie left this world 3 days after he released Blackstar, his 25th album. Much has been made about the timing of these events. All I will say is that his exit was orchestrated through mastery. Part of his message was the transcendence of suffering. In suffering there is always a gift. Instead of throwing a pity party and accepting death as inevitable defeat, he chose to give the best of himself. Definitely something the rest of humanity can learn a lot from.

Not to mention, Blackstar’s got some wicked bass stabs. Nuff said!

Copyright © 2016 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

Life After Clubland

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Veteran local DJ and author Denise Benson dishes on the state of Toronto’s nightlife in this article for MetroNews dated September 24th 2015. The famed “Clubland” district on Richmond and Adelaide streets is now a bland, sanitized smorgasbord with no hint of its semi-seedy past. It’s a crying shame, one that for all intents and purposes Toronto is proudly living up to. Benson is bang on when she states, “The closing of a number of venues in the early to mid-2000s, to me, signals a serious change that we haven’t entirely recovered from.” Well, that’s putting it nicely!

Actually, the death knell for the city’s clubscene has been sounding for quite some time, most notably in a revealing article by TorStar journalist Shawn Micallef in 2013. Gone is the bleeding ear dynamics of System Soundbar (I was there on opening night). Or giggling when you find out Jerry got kicked out of The Guvernment for doing coke in the bathroom. Or developing a mild crush on a jet-lagged Joey Beltram spinning at Turbo. What gives? Like I said before in a previous article, it’s time for suburbia to open up a can of kickass. Heck, even other provinces can pony up a slice of dance music pie – it’s up for grabs really. If pow wow step as popularized by A Tribe Called Red can come out of Ottawa, who knows what could emerge from Kingston? Foxstep maybe. Or reverbia in Cornwall. How about rattlecore from Rexdale? Only time will tell.

Copyright © 2015 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.