Category Archives: dance music

Betcha didn’t know I can sing! Parang II

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Once upon a time, I was part of a musical experiment known as Nebula Starway in the U.K. 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.

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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 was 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 an added bonus, Carlos 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 mother, 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 known about it. 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 could take care of the legwork while I got to enjoy the benefits. 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 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.

A Tribe Called Red Stirs Things Up

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For many years, the Indigenous people of (the stolen land known as) Canada remained under the mainstream cultural radar. They simply didn’t seem to exist anywhere; in magazines, radio, newsprint or television. They were spoken of in whispers and when I did see them, they kept very much to themselves. In the back of my mind I found this disparity rather disquieting but had no idea what was wrong. I had yet to know anything about the horrific legacy of residential schools and the effects of post-colonialism.

Along came Idle No More and changed all that. Suddenly First Nations and Aboriginals were in the spotlight, standing up for environmental issues and shaking things up. The pendulum was finally swinging in the other direction. And the time was right for A Tribe Called Red to enter the spotlight.

After the release of their eponymous album as a free download in 2012, things gained considerable momentum for the trio of DJ’s from Ottawa, namely Tim “2oolman” Hill, Bear Witness and Ian “DJ NDN” Campeau. Glowing reviews in NOW magazine tagged them as a group to watch. The plaintive tribal wail of Electric Pow Wow Drum fused with infectious dubby rhythms made millions of heads bop and take notice. Technically their music can be described as pow wow music married with electronica and hip-hop elements. On a deeper level, their aforementioned signature track is a protest song; the singers’ visceral war like cry contrasts sharply with the playfully condescending voiceover of a white American comedian making off the cuff remarks about “Indians.” In an unobtrusive manner, A Tribe Called Red brings deep seated racism to the forefront while making you shake a leg. Which is no small accomplishment, given how uncomfortable a subject matter this is for so many.

At the end of the day, their music is essentially geared to make you forget all your troubles and dance your ass off. Which they managed to do successfully during Panamania at Nathan Phillips Square on August 12th. It was immensely gratifying to see my taxpaying dollars do something useful for a change! Though at times I sensed they needed to stretch themselves artistically, (as if they’d become a wee bit bored with playing certain songs) they were a definite crowd pleaser. It was pretty dope to see the athletically gifted hoop dancer interpret a remix of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Award Tour.”

Anyone who’s ever attended a pow wow can attest to the raw power of traditional chanting with men screaming at the top of their lungs as they whack a huge drum in syncopation while dancers dressed in fine regalia move in a slow circle around the drummers. Big ups to A Tribe Called Red for bringing traditional music to the masses in an easy to digest format. It can only get better from here on out.

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.

Michael Lives…in an Alternate Universe

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Copyright © 2015 Frankie Diamond

Copyright © 2015 Frankie Diamond

We live in a world without Michael Jackson. Sure we have his music, his art, his legacy but the King of Pop blew the stand 6 years ago today. Suppose Michael is alive and well in an alternate universe? If you think I’m crazy just pose this question to a quantum physicist; the answer might surprise you. Heck, it was enough to get me excited enough to create this hasty painting to honour this great entertainer. I recently had a conversation with Michael on the other side of the galaxy; here’s what he had to say.

F: Hi Michael! So good to have this opportunity to chat with you. Tell me, what’s life like on your end?

MJ: I really love it here. It’s so amazing! I’ve never felt such peace in my life.

F: Do you miss Earth?

MJ: Sometimes. I miss my children most of all and my family and all the people I’ve ever loved. But no, I don’t miss Earth. People can be so mean and cruel. Out here, there’s nothing like that; only love. This atmosphere is so blissful! I wish humans could feel more love for everything around them. That would make the world a better place.

F: Isn’t this the message that you’ve tried to relay through your music?

MJ: Yes, yes of course! I think I made a lot of people happy with my music, especially children. They are the future of planet Earth you know. All I ever wanted to do was bring joy, light and love through my artform. Some people didn’t get it but that’s okay. Maybe one day they will. If it’s not through my music, it will come in a different way.

F: Michael, I’m going to ask you a question that might make you uncomfortable. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want too. Cool?

MJ: Ok.

F: Why did you have so much plastic surgery? Some people say it’s because you hated your African features.

MJ: Well…they don’t know what they’re talking about. First of all, they have no idea what it was like to be me. The real reason why I chose to alter my features has nothing to do with me hating my blackness and everything to do with changing my outer appearance to match my inner identity.

F: Inner identity? Can you explain a little further.

MJ: I used to have these dreams where I would see myself with features like what you drew in your painting. This happened a lot when I was a child and I was confused. I couldn’t understand what it meant because when I looked in the mirror, I saw a black kid. As I got older, I began to realize that those dreams were actually memories of a past life. What a lot of people don’t know is that plastic surgery is not a modern invention. The Atlanteans and Egyptians were altering their features thousands of years ago. There is so much that modern society does not know and those that do keep a lot of it secret.

F: Interesting. But don’t you think you went a bit overboard? For me personally, after Thriller you could have stopped; your face was so beautiful then. And still recognizably Michael to many.

MJ: There were days when I looked in the mirror and cried at what I did to myself. Yes, sometimes I thought I went too far. But there was nothing I could do to reverse the damage. I just had to accept it and keep living, day by day. The one thing I learned from that experience was you can never be physically perfect in this world, no matter how you try. The only perfect thing in this world is pure love that comes from a mother and especially children and animals. They don’t judge you, they don’t expect anything from you except love. And that helped to keep me alive through so many challenges and unbelievable difficulties that I would not wish on my worst enemy.

F: Do you feel that your work on Earth is finished? Do you see yourself coming back here at some point?

MJ: Hmmm…well, I think the Earth is so beautiful. I had so many amazing experiences there and in spite of all the pain, I know I’m truly blessed. I came into this world, knowing what my purpose was, having all this amazing support and opportunities to grow into what I came to be. I’ve been travelling all across the universe as a messenger of love bringing healing to other beings through light, color and sound for a very long time. As much as I love Earth, I shall not be returning. I will continue to spread my message in other worlds, for this universe is so vast. Humans need to learn more about being in their hearts before they can even begin to have friendly relations with extra-terrestrials.

F: How does the Earth situation look from where you are?

MJ: Right now, it’s very serious. Humans are in a lot of trouble, more than they realize. If they continue to hurt each other and pollute the environment, then they are not only endangering other lifeforms on the planet, they are also endangering themselves. Many extra-terrestrials are actually not impressed with humans and don’t want to make contact with them, and there are others that do. So if people want to see change for the better, they have to start with themselves.

F: That’s the whole point of “Man In The Mirror.”

MJ: Exactly. That’s the message I was trying to get across.

F: I think a lot of people got it. So there is still hope for humans after all.

MJ: There is always hope. Keep hope alive.

F: Thanks Michael. I’d love to swing by your hood sometime.

MJ: Frankie, you’re always welcome to drop by.

F: I love you Michael.

MJ: I love you too Frankie.

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.