Thursday, January 17, 2013

DJANGO UNCHAINED

Django Unchained, is certainly garnering a considerable buzz, not just in the black community but in mainstream media too.  Perhaps because it's the latest effort from film enfant-terrible Quentin Tarantino or possibly because of the subject matter.  Either way, I decided to see for myself what the brouhaha was all about.

So many of my emotions were stirred throughout this movie.  Starting with me trying to wrap my head around the crazy concept that a FICTIONAL freed black man becomes a bounty hunter paid to track and kill whites, to the fact that too rarely do black audiences see an honest love story between people of color that is not tainted by sleaze or stereotype.

There were moments when I squirmed in my seat.  Watching a white man's blood splashed on the blinding white cotton fields of a Southern plantation, I wondered if the irony was lost on those sitting in the cinema with me.  There's also a particularly inhumane scene involving bloodhounds.  In true Tarantino form, there is a lot of violence, blood and gore.  I'm in anguish as i realize that no matter how bloody the scene I'm witnessing, historically it has been recorded that these things happened to black people enslaved on Southern plantations.  Even though this is a SPAGHETTI WESTERN, it gets a thumbs up from me for its casting of an uppity nigger in the main role.  Not since Blazing Saddles, the Mel Brooks movie back in the 1970's have we seen a black cowboy taking charge and Jamie Foxx definitely takes charge.  In a classic Hitchcock-esque move, Tarantino himself appears in the movie as does the consummate Spaghetti Western actor Franco Nero aka Django in the 1966 movie of the same name.

I've heard that Leonardo DiCaprio had a hard time getting into character, but once he does, his portrayal of a Southern planter with a cavalier disregard for hsi slaves is as chilling as they come.  Samuel Jackson digs deep to dredge up the Uncle Tom of all Toms who has no qualms betraying Django.  The stunning beauty of bi-lingual Kerry Washington as Bromhilda makes Django's love and quest to reunite with his wife all the more believable.

Whatever Spike Lee may have to say about the degradation of the race and the dishonor of the memory of black ancestry, I think Tarantino's film goes a long way to re-opening eyes and dialogue about a subject that is still a festering sore in the American psyche - the question of race, racism and the recognition that it still exists in the age of Obama.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Caribbean Fever Heats up Barclay Center c Sheron Hamilton-Pearson

Originally scheduled for November 2, 2012, the events of Tropical Storm Sandy and the subsequent cancellatrion of a Nets basketball game, meant the much touted and anticipoated Caribbean Fever concert featuring a mash-up of Caribbean, Soca, Hip-Hop and Dancehall artists had to be postponed to December 17, 2012.

Preceding the show, the Caribbean Fever Music Festival Award presentations were made to stalwarts and veterans in the music industry.  City Council and NY State Senate citations were also handed out to Gil Bailey, Francine Chin, Pat McKay and Doug E. Fresh with recognition given to the medical field in the personage of Dr. Velma Scantleburry-White.  Don Bobb, former WLIB presenter, John Melbourne Financial Controller for Inner City Broadcasting, Neville Bush former Inner City Broadcasting account executive, Edwin Howe VP Records, Dee Jay Roy from Road International, Chris the DubMaster from Dubmasters International, hitmarker for Harry Belafonte - Irving Burgie, Composer and Jumane Williams City Councilman.

The warm-up acts did well, despite miss-steps and nervous demeanor at performing before the almost full to capacity venue of the now celebrated state of the art performing and sports arena known as the Barclay Center.  T-Micky, Kompa artist and son of Haitian musician turned politicaian - Sweet Mickey - and his band set the mood for the Caribbean party night to follow.

Let's forget about the glitches with the sound and the sometimes lengthy band changes and just concentrate on the performances on the night.  Starting with the Caribbean Queen herself, Ms. Alison Hinds, attired in a cute gold number with thigh high boots, this lady shows no signs of slowing down, except that she now has a group of back-up dancers to perform the gymnastic waist gyratgions she has come to be known for.  Displaying her versatility and ability to capture and keep the attention of her audience, she surprised all in attendance when she broke into an Alton Ellis classic "I'm still in Love with You", she further delighted the crowd with her authentic moves to a song from dancehall gully god Mavado.

Old school Hip-Hop had the crowd rocking adn reliving their younger days and even had a few in the crowd dusting off their old dance moves as Chubb Rock, Slick Rick the Ruler (sporting his trademark eye-patch and dripping in iced-out jewels) together with Doug E. Fresh thrilled the crowd, bringing back memories of the glory days of Hip Hop when - as Doug E. Fresh remarked - the pioneers didn't need to say or do anything shocking to get a hit song.  The first human beat box, Fresh still has the skills to take on all comers in this day and age, he definitely garnered the biggest forward for his segment.  Surprise guest Little Vicious came out swinging with his "Freak" song and displayed moves to match.

Cultural reggae representatives, Morgan Heritage, showed why they are such a great example of roots reggae artists with hits like "Brooklyn & Jamaica" in a nod to their borthplace - Bushwick.  Other hits followed in a very tight set that had the crowd singing and rocking to "Don't Haffi Dread", "Do You See Anything to Smile About",  "Down by the River", "She's Still Loving Me", "Reggae Bring Back Love" and the new single "The Return" which is the first release from their August 2012 album of the same name.  Morgan Heritage proved that despite rumors to the contrary, the band has not split up and is in fact with a bang.  Denroy Morgan, family patriarch also joined the group on stage, jubilant at his recent extraordinarily lenient sentence following his guilty plea on possession of a large quantity of cannabis.

The event host, Dhavid "Caribbean Fever" Levy in between performances proudly announced a donation of $10,000 to be shared between Canarsi and Far Rockaway, two of the main Brooklyn areas affected by recent super-Tropical Storm Sandy.

All the performers mentioned the recent unbearable tragedy of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, which took the lives of 20 innocent 6 and 7 year olds, together with six of their teachers and administrators.  Perhaps the most poignant and tear-jerking moment of the show was Peeta of Morgan Heritage's call for the house lights to be dimmed to illuminate the twinkling of thousands of cellphones in the auditorium.  Mr. Vegas topped his set with a beautiful rendition of Whitney Houston's "I Look to You" (reminding all present of his great singing voice) before going into "I am Blessed", exiting the stage after a brief performance of his summer blockbuster "Bruk it Dung".  Cham, absent from New York stages for a while, also turned in a good performance with his smooth and sexy dance moves, one highlight being his surprise guest - none other than bad girl of rap - Foxy Brown!  He closed his set with a collaboration with "O" his wife, who is currently riding the charts exctolling the virtues of her good pudenda!  Premier sound system out of Japan, Mighty Crown filled in nicely in between sets and also had a chance in the spotlight to show their prowess and celebration of their love of Jamaican dancehall music.

The tension continued to build the whole night, in anticipation of the final act, Machel Montana HD, who delivered his usual fiery performance, which left the stated audience looking forward to their participation in Trinidad & Tobago's February 2013 carnival.

Caribbean Fever brought together Caribbean folks who, for one night at least, forgot their differences and came together as one.