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.

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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.

3 Years of Frankenräver

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Today marks the 3 year anniversary of Frankenräver. At that age, I was a screaming mass of raw energy; temperamental, curious and testing the boundaries of my parent’s patience. Although I haven’t posted anything in months, it doesn’t mean that I’ve given up. Au contraire, I’ve been quietly, constantly evolving and so my point of view on a number of subjects has shifted drastically.

After much consideration, I’ve concluded that there’s nothing about Toronto’s party scene that holds much appeal for me anymore. Raving as I knew it in the 90’s is dead, done over – ain’t never coming back. Tough shit. Sorry to dash the hopes of all you ol skoolers still striving to “bring back” that flavour with your sentimental little bashes. The truth is, many are far too self-centred, distracted, emotionally obtuse in this society to invoke the spirit of PLUR on a grand scale, but that’s not to say it’s still not happening. Just not in Toronto.

Call it maturity (or even ennuie), but I feel the energy calling me somewhere else. I can’t say much right now, except to say that I’m pretty excited about it. Instead of clinging to the past and false hopes of long lost glory, I’ve opened myself to new horizons, broadening my scope on a fantastic scene that has spread around the globe. In 2013, Frankenräver garnered hits from 114 countries from some pretty surprising places including Qatar, Benin, Hungary, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, Algeria, Venezuela, Estonia, Peru, Vietnam and Egypt. I’m happy to know that rave culture has touched so many lives on this planet and will continue to do so for many years to come.

Thanks to all of you for your support and readership. Stay tuned for new and interesting developments to come in the near future.

Raving is like a retrovirus. It never truly left me and I don’t think it ever will. Beats herpes anyday!

PLUR,
Frankenräver

😀

Copyright © 2014 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.

I guess we are all searching for…somethig?!

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From research done by real estate site Estately. (I am disturbed….deeply disturbed)

America’s fifty states have a lot in common, but if their internet search histories are any indication they also have significant differences. Estately ran hundreds of search queries through Google Trends to determine which words, terms, and questions each state was searching for more than any other. The results ranged from mildly amusing to completely disturbing. No doubt this information will come in handy for anyone trying to decide which state they want to buy a home in, especially for those curious how their potential neighbors spend their time online. The results on the map above are just the tip of the online search iceberg. Check out what other search queries each state performed more of than any other in the list below…

ALABAMA: FOX News / God / Impeach Obama / Jesus / Jessica Simpson /…

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Dr. Maya Angelou expands Horizons

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Maya Angelou

Legendary poet, actress, civil rights activist and professor, Dr. Maya Angelou has passed away today, at the age of 86. She was a giant in the literary and academic fields, having written numerous plays, books and essays. Dr. Angelou has received scholarships, awards, accolades and worldwide recognition. As a multi-faceted genius, her track record is mind boggling, so I will focus on just a tiny portion of her brilliance.

This Renaissance woman was a critically acclaimed singer, songwriter and maverick. After studying dance with Trinidadian Pearl Primus in New York, she embarked on a professional career singing calypso music and dancing in San Francisco nightclubs. Her first album, “Miss Calypso” was recorded in 1957.

I first became familiarized with Dr. Angelou one summer after reading, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” This was her first published autobiography, and a very successful one at that. It changed my life. Her harrowing account of childhood trauma was shocking yet revealing. I was immensely touched by her bravery, courage and determination to succeed no matter what happened. Few women had such brazen resolve. She took full responsibility for her life and in so doing, liberated herself from limitation.

The impact of her genius has extended even to dance music. Millions have been mesmerized by the vocal sample on “Horizons” by LTJ Bukem. The sassy, wise voice of Dr. Angelou announces, “Each new hour holds new chances for new beginnings….the horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change.” This sample was taken from her recital, “On The Pulse of Morning” at former president Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. These words speak of being in the present’ realizing we have the power to shape our destinies at any given moment according to what we choose. It’s a philosophy I have come to embrace. Thank you, Dr. Angelou – may you continue to expand your horizons. There are no limits.

Dr. Maya Angelou image source: http://www.achievement.org

Copyright © 2014 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.

 

Seth Troxler Sounds Off on EDM

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 Seth Troxler tells it like it is in his brilliant exposé about EDM in Thump (Vice U.K.).

Many might disagree with his strong (and often hilarious) criticism of dance festivals, but as a raver from the 90’s I support many of his views. You would have to have been part of that era in order to have a broader perspective on how much dance music has morphed into its current state of  affairs.

Read and be enlightened…

http://thump.vice.com/en_uk/words/seth-troxlers-guide-to-dance-music-festivals-clubbing-and-not-being-a-terrible-human

Image source: http://www.factmag.com

Possible 90’s Rave Revival?

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Could this event mark a possible revival of the 90’s rave scene (in spirit at least?).

That’s what I thought when I first laid eyes on this flyer – at a café in Kensington Market of all places. I was pleasantly surprised to see underground soldier Angel Alanis headlining. “Chi’s Revenge,” a hi-energy breakbeat infused number is one of his most recognizable offerings off the noteworthy album, Reverse Polarities. Although he is known primarily for techno, this track remains one of my all-time favourites because it exemplifies Alanis’ versatility and playfulness.

I wonder whether Paul Walker is the same British dude who used to have that dope store on Richmond St. I believe. I don’t recall the name (if someone remembers, holla back!) but it was a fantastic hub of activity staffed by DJ’s spinning live music selling mix tapes, clothing, accessories, albums and tickets to all the upcoming events. Walker used to play killer hard house and progressive back in the day; I still have a Liquid Adrenaline tape featuring a set of his. If it’s you Paul, welcome back!

In this digital age of smartphones and facebook, the promoters had the audacity to include an info line number. Wtf…AND pre- 2000 ticket prices! I called the number and sure enough, there was a pre-recorded blurb complete with background music. It ended with the traditional, “Stay tuned for more info;” no details given about the location (til the night of). I’m beginning to feel slightly rebellious now…look out world!

With the enticing prospect of laser shows, dry ice and projections, this event is obviously targeted towards ol skool ravers. It’ll probably attract a lot of newbies too, judging from the teeny tiny fb logo near the bottom of the flyer. Yes, Fusion Entertainment is banking on 90’s nostalgia but they’re keeping it current too. Smart business move.

Honestly, there isn’t much that really excites me about Toronto’s party scene anymore. Don’t believe me? Check out NOW magazine’s cover feature this week: Fight for Your Right to Party. Reading about the pathetic state of Toronto’s nightlife was rather depressing but I see it as part of a cycle. Everything eventually comes to an end, whether it’s a behemoth club veteran like The Guvernment or gay central stronghold Fly. It’s really up to the people to rise up and carve out a new definition for Toronto’s party identity. So far, it looks like Fusion Entertainment might be leading the way. Sometimes you have to take a step back to make a giant leap forward. If these guys are genuine, and don’t plan on doing bullshit like shutting off cold water, then this might be a good way to get Toronto’s nightscene off its ailing ass and back into the game.

I must confess my expectations for this event are not high; rather, they are carefully measured with a healthy dose of skepticism. But then again, that’s what happens when you’ve touched the outskirts of infinity, only to come down a little too soon.

Copyright © 2014 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.

R.I.P. Frankie Knuckles

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Honestly, I feel like giving myself a knuckle sandwich for taking this long to pay my respects, but I gotta give it up to the late, great pioneer of Chicago house, Frankie Knuckles. Born Francis Nicholls in the Bronx, Knuckles first began DJ’ing in the 70’s alongside the legendary Larry Levan at the notoriously gay Continental Baths in New York City. The hybrid disco-bathhouse featured top notch entertainers and Frankie was no exception. Being at the right place at the right time certainly helped to cement his reputation as a pioneer in dance music. Arguably, disco helped to lay the foundation for house and Frankie was fortunate to be there live and direct, soaking up the sizzling influences of that era. After moving to Chicago in 1977, he began spinning at The Warehouse where he developed the style of music that has come to be known as “house.” His open-minded approach led him to experiment with combining elements of R&B with synths and a drum-machine to develop this rebelliously scintillating genre. It must have been exciting to be on the cutting edge of a new frontier as Frankie was at that time, along with fellow pioneers like Derrick May and Ron Hardy.

After his Chicago club, Power Plant, closed in 1987, Frankie headed off to the U.K. to play a residence at infamous house of rave, Delirium. Are you beginning to see a pattern emerging here? This man was definitely chosen to accomplish great things in the music world. I would give anything to be a fly on the wall witnessing the “Second Summer of Love” unfold, but Frankie was right up there in the mix. Respect.

Knuckles first grabbed my attention with “The Whistle Song” back in the 90’s. That track got heavy rotation and helped put him out into the mainstream. Frankie reached new heights in his career when he earned a 1997 Grammy award for Remixer of the Year, Non-Classical. A slew of remixes for noteworthy artists followed: Lisa Stansfield, Diana Ross, Toni Braxton and Michael Jackson, to name a few. And then, one of the greatest forms of recognition any artist could receive; a street renamed in his honour, “Frankie Knuckles Way” by the city of Chicago. To put further icing on the cake, August 25th 2004 was declared “Frankie Knuckles Day” by none other than Illinois senator, Barack Obama. It’s comforting to know that this openly gay, Afro-American DJ has received such tremendous respect and recognition for his abilities as opposed to his sexual orientation. A great blessing indeed, and a true testament to his hard-working, positive attitude and joyful approach to life.

Sadly, Frankie left us on March 31st, 2014 due to complications from Type II diabetes. Apparently he’d developed the condition after a skiing accident in which he’d fractured the metatarsals in his foot. He eventually ended up losing the leg, but still soldiered on like a true warrior. If anything, we should be happy for him. It might seem that he passed away prematurely, but I think he lived a full life, accomplishing so many wonderful feats and leaving musical treats to tantalize headz for generations to come. This raises the issue that we all have to face at some point: our own mortality. Most of electronic music’s pioneers are at advanced stages in their lives, and they will all leave in the coming decades. Once they’re gone, it will be interesting to see how EDM will continue to evolve. Will that soulful quality born from the early days still be present? Times change, people change and of course, the music will change. As long as there’s electricity, there will always be EDM. It is, however, important to note that consciousness affects sound, so the level of integrity is reliant upon where the majority focus their thoughts, for better or for worse.

Normally I don’t mess with politics, but kudos to The Obamas for remembering Frankie Knuckles in this letter from The White House:

ObamaFrankie
‘Nuff said!
Peace out, my fellow Ecstaticans. Take a moment to listen to “Your Love,” undoubtedly one of the greatest house tracks of all time has a smooth, chilled out ambience that is truly timeless.

Copyright © 2014 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.