notes from a journey through Chicago's cultural landscape...

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

...this is not about me, this is about my city - a living document of Chicago's art's scene, a memoir of concerts I've been to & performances I've seen, a jaded scribe's small sampling of the many offerings of this vibrant cosmopolitan city that I'm lucky enough to call home. I work the city as the city works me, all of us connected in varying degrees, here i pay tribute to our evolving soundtrack, I plug praiseworthy endeavors & try to give a little back... Together with my peers we paint this crossroads with every shade we can find, in your mediums & mine, i run with deep house deviants & wrinkled blues cats, youngun' b-boy crews & quirky circus brats, snobby eclectic DJs & electric painters laboring on projected displays, film makers armed with mini-DVs & picky chefs sculpting tricky masterpieces out of vegan grease... i kick it with slam poets & theater geeks, powerbook producers & fashionista freaks, photoshop fellowships & choreographer hips, while jazz cats blow digital epics through pursed bebop lips... i'm at the nexus of the next wave of Chicago sound - this is where i share the stories of all the beauty I've found...

Friday, May 27, 2005

Funkadesi @ Hot House

Caught Funkadesi @ Hot House to open a long weekend. This was actually my first time seeing the group perform, although I've seen various band members in different capacities playing in other ensembles. It was a big group of people, with a whole lot of instruments, and with a vibrant, happy Friday night crowd dancing in front of the stage all night long. I was front and center...
I cannot begin to describe the sound, look, or aesthetic of this band - their appeal crosses generations, continents, and language boundaries. A group of musicians this eclectic that manages to communicate at all is a feat in and of itself, but the fact that they can forge coherent, well-crafted songs together is a trubute to the openminded cooperative nature of most students of the world's rhythmic traditions. The sound of a dhol drum juxtaposed against conga patterns, the melodic blend of a sitar & a saxophone, these are compositional experiments that have the capacity to go horribly wrong at any given moment, but within Funkadesi the arrangements breath, the musicians are all smiling, and the crowds are bouncing along to a cosmpolitan groove that feels both organic and evolved...

turbans & dreads
bopping Hot House headz
sitars & singing sisters
drummers with finger blisters
celebrations and passages through multiple formats
burnt melting pot anthems from culture junkies in cool hats
elders & upstarts
interracial couples with full hearts
tacets & hits
the funk fuse lit
too many people dancing to see
no matter where you sit
something so unlikely and so innate
natural blues across nation states
we find the people we're meant to find
while seeking the soundtrack of the immigrant mind...

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Binary Mine Deliveries...

Swung by the Binary Mine to drop off a fistful of files -
Rung the doorbell and got a look @ some upcoming styles:
curator Kim A. lining up the talent & clients
the aesthetic engineer schooled in applied science
the business & art coalescing
big pants '96 parties meet ambient rooftop sessions
digital layers of organic fruit essence
a hot Wicker Park art gallery of intersecting impressions
old school jams & funk in the speakers
circuitry boards run by Adobe AfterEffects tweakers
holding down the spot & plotting out the rise
a summer full of plateaus & perpetual highs
my friends with the SICK loft, the classy venue of choice:
the masses prostrate to her DV rig & jazz diva voice
sometimes a single friend makes it all so clear
why it is i'm an artist
why it is i'm here
within the mirror folds among my many muses
between the DJ crews & deep dancer bruises
when you run with the creators you create your own
constantly projecting polyrhthms
seeking complementary tones...

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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Body Worlds @ the Museum of Science & Industry

Spent Saturday afternoon on the South Side @ the Museum of Science & Industry. My parents were in town for the weekend & they wanted to check out the notorious exhibit "Body Worlds", which has garnered a lot of national attention for featuring real cadavers that have been treated with plastics in order to showcase in gory and miraculous detail all the intricate workings of the human body. It's an overwhelming exhibit destined to have a powerful impact on the body awareness of everyone who sees it. It's impossible to be indifferent to the sight of corpses stripped of their skin & tissues to reveal the underlying structures of the various systems comprising the complete human form. What could be horrific and in shockingly bad taste is instead a true tribute to the objectivity of scientific inquiry, in that the exhibit feels like a journey towards a greater understanding of the complexity of the machines our consciousness operates. That said, there are plenty of disconcerting sights that will leave visitors queasy, and a pervasive air looming over the whole wing that calls to mind the necrophiliac element coloring all the endeavors of Mary Shelley's Dr.Frankenstein. Who pays to see bodies that have been ripped apart and manipulated? Or, more disturbingly, who dedicates the time to perform such laborious processes on dead matter? I left the exhibit questioning my convictions & with a renewed committment to eat better, lift more weights, and kick-start my lapsed martial arts regimen. Any display that has such a positive effect on its viewers is praiseworthy, no matter how warped its basis...
Before walking through the exhibit, we bought tickets to see the IMAX film "The Human Body" which accompanies the cadavers and definitely eases an audience into appreciating the nuances of what goes down beneath our skins. The film was fantastically shot, and opened with a sequence of a camera rolling over what looks like a textured desert landscape of shapely dunes, only to pull back to reveal that the viewer is in fact seeing is a torso, with a great gaping chasm in the middle that's actually a belly button. The sight of a belly button the size of a four-story building is well-worth the prices of admission alone, but the film continues over its course to offer stunning glimpses of the processes occuring within the body. From uncomfortable but humorous images ranging from the creation of a zit and the production of bile, to a series of breathtaking shots of the muscular and skeletal systems in action, the film is a fantastic exploration of the machinery comprising "the Human Body." Funded by the BBC, this is a movie far superior to that atrocity "the Miracle of Life" i was forced to watch in middle school sex ed. My personal favorite scene was watching newborn infants the size of 2 story buildings swimming with wide open innocent eyes through water - it turns out that there's a strange 6 month phenomenon whereby newborns do not attempt to breath when submerged, as their lungs block off the fluids and channel the water directly to their stomachs. This fact led to the film's most memorable sequence, in which a slew of babies adoringly paddled across the screen in scenes reminiscent of the album cover to Nirvana's "Nevermind". It was a great visual, and a really fascinating fact to learn about... How our bodies transform over time is nothing short of shapeshifting...
I highly recommend folks to check this exhibit out before it leaves. It will totally alter the way you see yourself and others. Aside from the cross-sections of obese people, the plasticized example of a man with a hernia around his genitals, the blood vessel systems that resembled the texture of cotton candy, and the spactacle of raw musculature adorning athletes in motion, my personal highlight was not even a cadaver. Directly behind me in line was a couple and their 6 year-old daughter, who after seeing the very first body began to whine and pout rather loudly that she wanted to home. "Please Mom, i don't want to see anymore, let's go, please!" This continued for the rest of the exhibit, accompanied by the girl's comically frightened expression as she stared at the various bodies laid out like nightmare zombies stripped of their bones, organs, and cut open in cross-sections. The look on her face throughout kept me cynically amused throughout, even though it was apparent she'd be having nightmares soon...Even a 6-year old doesn't necessarily want to understand... Life isn't very romantic when you strip away the mysterious cloak of skin to revel rusted levers, broken springs, and dirty gears... It's so much more peaceful to just trust the dreamsequence in our minds and divorce our consciousness from the messy earthbound nature of our bodies... But the parts make the whole, each element plays a perfectly callibrated role, and no matter how cerebral our journeys may seem, our thoughts are just the ghosts lurking throughout the machine...

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Friday, May 20, 2005

Ron Trent & Africa Hi-Fi @ Sonotheque

The monthly Afro-beat fix -
Fela flavors & plantain chips
refined nubian night crawlers
between stepping sisters & brazilian hips
another Friday night held in the sway of DJ Ron Trent
400-some folks funking to the Orishas descent
west village jams & Ghana grooves
Africa enters the room - see how the crowds move...
Sonia H. in a tangible state of flux
between the party & the people she's the pressured crux
stressed by seeking to share the most authentic feel:
a delivery system undergoes a taxing ordeal
the facts are these:
the scene grows at its own pace
it takes time to cultivate a community's tastes
the best music is always way ahead of the curve
those who bring it are burdened by the visions they serve
the mission evolves year by year
the faces of the cast slowly become clear
there's an imperative hidden in these mixes we hear:
this is a journey of reclamation, so much more than it appears...
reparations resonating through the room
raised hands & spirits each time the bass goes boom
Ron's birthday bash is a packed house of friends
a communal gathering of folks determined to ascend...

11 months of Africa Hi-Fi
all the fluctuations a year in the life implies
getting closer to the sources we seek to tap
giving the dark continent a House Party on the American map...

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

M.I.A. & Diplo @ Metro Chicago

Concert Review for

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a radical woman of color in possession of a microphone is a revolution waiting to happen. Weaned on the bitter milk of colonialism, spitting spiced manifestos in the ghetto slang of an appropriated tongue, a female desi MC with skills is a glorious phenomenon to behold. Shaped by all the joys, contradictions, challenges and indignities of being born a brown girl in a world presided over by white men, there is something incredibly uplifting about someone who’s overcome unlikely odds to emerge unscathed, fully empowered, and with a middle-finger raised high against all the inherent injustices of a rigged system. The recent arrival on the world stage of Maya Arulpragasam, aka “M.I.A.” heralds the rise of a new style of conscious hip hop surfacing from marginalized third world communities, in which a Tamil hottie can make a living spitting catchy streams of unapologetic insurrection over the grimiest, funkiest beats the UK has to offer. I had the pleasure last night of seeing M.I.A. in concert alongside her co-conspirators MC Terry and DJ Diplo, and came away from the show with a head full of unforgettable hooks, a body jacked up by dirty dancehall bass and with a deep sense of solidarity for the unique aesthetic and subversive message of the world’s preeminent postergirl for progressive desi hip hop.
Currently on her first American tour supporting LCD Soundsystem, London-based M.I.A. is a critically-acclaimed MC and producer who has received more press-coverage than any single desi artist in recent memory. She makes great copy, which is why her story and profile have been filling magazines for the last year – fueled by the 2005 release of her debut album “Arular” and last fall’s notorious Diplo-crafted mixtape “Piracy Funds Terrorism Vol.1.” Her records are infused with a sound unlike anything else, a thick stew of potent garage-heavy hip hop which borrows liberally from every shade of UK immigrant culture to forge a refreshingly innovative danceable 21st century urban folk music. It sounds hot on tape, and I was looking forward to seeing M.I.A. perform live in order to assess whether or not all the hype was legit and well-deserved. Having heard vague unsubstantiated rumors of M.I.A. lip-synching through performances, I was quite ready to be let down, mentally prepared for a disappointing performance from a character who simply could not live up to the overexposed media-manufactured image that precedes her. My worries proved to be groundless, as M.I.A. delivered a fantastic enthralling set that was at once intimate, inspiring and powerfully authentic and original. This is no feeble Ashley Simpson-esque bubble-gum diva sleepwalking through songs someone else wrote, this is no industry-framed idol regurgitating the safe saccharine melodies of yesteryear, this is an artist whose success is not dependant on the fickle trends of the music industry’s bloated corporate machinations. M.I.A. is the real thing, a raw conscience channeling the patois of the streets over the hardest beats she can find, deftly using the tools of hip hop to shape her message and spread it concealed in what seems to be the most innocuous of places, a gibberish pop song. Regardless of how you feel about her lyrics and music, it’s difficult to not be enamored with the spirit that crafted such an ingenious ploy…
The actual show was quite an experience. I turned up at the sold-out Metro a little after 9 pm to find the main floor of the venue already densely packed with a tangibly excited crowd of hipsters. Aphex Twin’s “Windowlicker” was playing as I entered, a good omen for the start of any concert, and as I worked my way towards the front of the room the mix evolved to incorporate a few dancehall tracks and an eclectic assortment of garage and hip hop instrumentals. A hooded Diplo showed up discreetly onstage for the briefest of moments to test some gear, and then disappeared again for what seemed like an eternity. The mood of the crowd was anxious and suitably claustrophobic by the time Diplo returned to work his turntables and laptop, and after a few cursory tracks, he triggered a video sequence that preceded M.I.A.’s stage entrance. The video was a carefully cut version of a Tony Blair-George W. Bush joint press conference, humorously edited to where both nation’s leaders were repeatedly asserting that the only thing they could truly be sure of was “M.I.A.” The crowd loved it. Enter the divine feminine.
M.I.A. and her co-MC Cherry bound on stage, eliciting a roar from a suddenly exuberant crowd. M.I.A. is a vision of understated sequins and printed cloth, in denim and white sneakers and wielding a disarming smile, while Cherry rocks a small white tank top and short shorts. Both women are devastatingly gorgeous, in the way of shit-talking street sisters well-versed in fending off the unwanted advances of every thug within whistling distance. They grab their mics as Diplo drops the intro to “Pull Up the People” and the crowd begins to bounce. It’s immediately apparent that this crew is here to throw down anthems, and that this show is going to be a loud, celebratory sensory assault. After the first track is over, M.I.A. asks to be turned up, (“louder…more bass…I need to feel it”), and then they launch into another song, then another, each punctuated with memorable exchanges between the performers and the audience. The beats are compelling, the bass is invasive, the vocalists are on point and in sync, and the crowd is completely captivated by M.I.A. and the infectious energy of her music and character. Each chorus sounds like a call to arms and each break ripples through twitching, bopping heads and bodies straining to see the stage and the artists on it. By the end of her set, before the intro to “Galang” drops, it’s apparent to everyone in the room that M.I.A. is way more than just hype. Hidden within the weave of these beats and lyrics is a contagious drive for self-determination, a long-simmering desire for social justice, and an encoded invitation to a righteous form of empowerment. M.I.A. wants what any missing person seeks from her community once the forced stretch of isolation comes to an end: a gathering of complementary fragments, a chance to reconnect with like-minded souls, and above all, one ass-kicking party to bring home the love of those souls so potent they’re destined to spend their lives on the run…

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Bombay Beatbox @ Sonotheque

Hosted the monthly Asian Massive listening party at Sonotheque lounge last night. Very low turnout, but the people who showed up were determined to have a good time and were totally digging on the sounds and were getting down regardless of how empty the rest of the room was. Dropped a short set to open the evening and relinquished the tables to DJ Warp, who played a quick seamless series of tracks and then promptly departed to go watch a midnight screening of Star Wars. Adheesh Sathaye & George Lawler performed a SICK impromptu, unrehearsed jam between plugged in tablas and frame drums over one of Radiohiro's custom-made tracks, and Baseshot Scenario also incorporated some of his original beats into the mix via Ableton Live. It was a fun evening, I distributed an Afrobeat mix called "Fela Fallout & Fertile AfroFUNK", and also got a rare chance to dance my troubles away to the sweet sounds of Karsh Kale & Talvin Singh at high volume on Sonotheque's really well-crafted sound system. Radiohiro held down the decks for the whole evening, and there was a series of spontaneous jams between drummers & DJs. It was a very good vibe throughout, even though it was low key and most of my friends flaked and didn't show. The fewer of my friends who turn up, the more I'm obliged to actually work the room, introduce myself to strangers, and polish up on my promotional skills. It never ceases to amaze me how much I learn about myself and other people each time I dust off my game face and try to talk to folks about music... Working for Six Degrees Records is a lot like being an ambassador for musical traditions from all over the planet, and I'm blessed to be able to share these sounds with folks who are willing to listen beyond their media-manufactured comfort zones... The future belongs to those of us who understand that sound and vibrations are not hemmed in by arbitrary man-made borders...the beats cross all boundaries, the music permits us to transcend the limitations of all other human communication... Sounds idealistic, but yo - the vibrations are the only higher power I really trust anymore... & they've been good to me...
Do I weave the mix or does the mix weave me?
locked into identities, sound is a skeleton key
one love emerges from decaying cultural debris
beats form covenants across communities
setting vagabond listeners free...

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Monday, May 09, 2005

Crate Digging 101

Scored a $100 gift certificate to Coconuts Music from a low key DJ gig...
...spent an hour flipping through stacks of overpriced sounds...

Yo - the conscious way to buy records is direct from the artist or their record label, or from establishments that are NOT chain megastores, because by supporting independant retailers, music consumers keep the variety of what's available diverse and unaffected by the industry's pervasive monopolistic commercial agenda. Today I strayed from that path and bought a bunch of disks from Coconuts, the embodiment of a bloated corporate media outlet, whose world music selection was painfully small and woefully mislabeled. They also stuck it way in the back section of the store where no one ever goes, next to "New Age." So sad. Infuriating, really. But I ended up with some hot afro-centric albums for this mix I'm working on, look for a SOLID compilation of free Afro-Beat @ this month's Bombay Beatbox night @ Sonotheque. Here's what I picked up today:
Salif Keita - Remixes from Moffou (SICK!!!)
The Best of Fela Kuti - (2 Disk used set for $14 - DEAL!)
Angelique Kidjo - Black Ivory Soul
Ry Cooder & Ali Farka Toure - Talking Timbuktu
In the Mode - Roni Size/Reprazent
Ladysmith Black Mambazo - Journey of Dreams
Lo Fidelity Allstars - How To Operate With A Blown Mind
Nitin Sawhney - Prophecy
Talvin Singh presents Anokha (3rd time i've bought this...the best music always grows legs and walks...)

life's good when i have a stack of fresh sounds to explore...

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Deconstructing Ragas

Spent early Saturday afternoon in conversation with a few devoted students of the Indian classical music tradition. It seems this will soon become a regular monthly gathering, where we trade rhythmic breakdowns, scale secrets, and various techniques, perspectives, and motivations behind our pursual of this path we're all wandering down. (Or in my case, stumbling blindly down...) I'm hardly a posterchild for Indian Classical music, as I identify with the Bengali folk tradition, and consider my lineage to be rooted in Tagore, Nazrul, & Lalon Shah. However, the underlying structures and theory behind classical & folk music are the same, and it's always interesting and revitalizing to hear other people discuss different approaches to the process of composing music and recreating ragas... If you practice an art from another culture while living in a place where those skills are foreign, it is essential to trade metholodogies with whatever peers you can find in order to keep your skills up to par. Nothing grows in a vacuum, nothing develops and evolves without coming into contact with the conflict and positive resistance found in a community of like-minded people. Some reflections on a few hours spent listening to ragas and getting to know some truly awesome musicians:

As the diaspora disperses certain circles converge:
Each of us drawn towards the carriers of the teachings we heard:
Immersed in the deep folds of an unbroken line
Concerned for the preservation of what we’ve been taught to mind…

4 disappointed gurus from 3 different gharanas
in two distant ghettos adds up to one confused musician:
I’ve appropriated so many other cultures
I’ve irrevocably altered my desi-vision:
Cross-cultural smuggling missions
Require a willingness to bend tradition,
a desire to disregard the dogma concealed within discipline:
I can’t be a good disciple if my life is essentially about dissidence…

I will never claim to come from the Indian Classical tradition –
I am not respectful enough to do this the right way:
If I can’t find the time to practice I shouldn’t claim that I play
I leave the classical world to the superior students
Folks with higher degrees of commitment and more real skills
The souls clean enough to manifest their guruji’s will:
I am dirty Dhaka moonshine where they are ghee distilled…
yo, the conversation @ this gathering brought to mind one of my favorite pieces from Gitanjali, especially when we started talking about the Vedic concept of creation being born from vibrations, and the potential of sound to unify the various communities we come from...

peep this poem, circa 1913, by Rabindranath Tagore:
"Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake..."

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Barbershop Scenes - Milio's Hair Salon

Stopped through Milio’s on Belmont to get my dreads tightened by Jeffery, aka PoofyHair, who is something of a living legend among Chicago hairdressers. He handed me an incredible book on the history of dreads to read while pulling my scalp tight with quick efficient fingers. Learned a new word courtesy of Alice Walker’s essay on the virtues of the locks lifestyle… The Hindu/Sanskrit term “Jatta,” which means Dreadlock, according to the Upanishads, and refers to a spiritual commitment made by an ascetic mendicant to adhere to a certain disciplined code of conduct as a consequence of venturing onto the path of emulating Lord Shiva’s divinely disordered ‘do… Quite a read…always good to know whose footsteps you’re following in… For anyone looking for a crazy beautiful new look from the hippest salon in town, you should hit up Milio’s. They’re right next to the Belmont Red Line stop, and their handiwork is to found on the most beautiful freaks and style setters you can find in the Chi…

Relevant Links: (959 W.Belmont Ave)

Monday, May 02, 2005

Marta Topferova Trio @ Preston Bradley Hall

Last September during the 2004 Chicago World Music Festival my man Brian Keigher hooked me up with a free ticket to a Fado concert where the opening act was a trio led by an unforgettable Czech chanteuse crooning Latin lullabies. Experiencing Marta Topferova in concert is akin to closing your eyes and being transported to a South American plain at sunset, listening to the winds coalesce into a gently hypnotic music full of gypsy rhythms and earthy longings for a higher purpose. Tonight I watched her perform again with the inimitable Columbian Harpist Edmar Castaneda and backed by drummer Chris Eddleton beating out a lush foundation with jazz brushes. Her trio has now twice left me completely in awe of the transcendental awareness they channel while trading journeys of tone that cross tongues and trace continents. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been quite this enchanted by a purely acoustic ensemble. Marta Topferova, originally from Prague, delves deep into the Spanish folkloric songbook and emerges armed with a Cuatro, a fully nuanced Latin sensibility, and all the husky intensity of a young vaquera shapeshifter singing beside a raging camp fire on the pampas. She uses her voice to dance around the dark flaming duende supplied by the immensely talented Edmar Castaneda. who alongside surehanded Chris Eddleton lays down a tapestry of soft aggression on deftly manipulated harp strings. The combination is simply riveting and breathlessly beautiful, and FREE, courtesy of the Chicago Cultural Center’s incredible taste & programming. Life is good when my city is gracious enough to bring me music like this…

Tonight is the second time I’ve heard Edmar Castaneda perform his instrumental song “El Camino” (the Road). The piece is an elaborate journey – a devastating display of virtuosity and restraint tempered with soulful mastery and crisp dynamics, and it left me and the rest of the audience in awe of the tremendous future awaiting this young talent. He is in the early stages of redefining the Harp as an instrument, in the manner that Stanley Jorden expanded the capacity of the guitar for Jazz musicians and Jimi Hendrix stretched the living repertoire of the blues to create his otherworldly Stratocaster styles. What Edmar Castaneda does with a harp is at the same level of accomplishment as those legendary names, and his unique method of combining multiple lines of counterpoint melodies seems to know no boundaries. His phrasing is exquisite, his accompaniment of Marta Topferova was always tasteful and distinctive, and he sounds like no one else. Perhaps that’s because no one else has the audacity to play something as darkly complex as Latin Jazz with a tool as inherently transparent as an upright Harp…

The set this ensemble played left me daydreaming & humbled, & smitten like a 13-year old schoolboy too shy to say hello. Some musicians are so beautiful that they radiate the grace they carry with them in every movement, and it bleeds through their every word. Marta Topferova is a singular soul cut from such cloth, a spirit split into multiple tongues who delivers deadpan gorgeous vocals with a casual ease that is both astonishing and comforting. If she sounds THIS good in an appropriated language, she is truly raising the bar for vocalists everywhere. After the concert ended I found that I couldn’t approach these musicians, I couldn’t bring myself to walk over and buy what they were selling and tell them how I felt. They had just given me a deep and profound gift with a timeless musical experience that I will remember and carry with me forever, and to profane our exchange with a feeble self-introductory greeting seemed blasphemous. So instead of being brave I walked out to Randolph & Michigan and headed for the train, with a head full of undiluted duende and my mind wandering down towards those sunny lands in the southern hemisphere…

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

"Cha No Aji" or "Taste of Tea" - Film Screening @ Cafe Suron

I had the pleasure of dining @ Café Suron this evening with my favorite table of foreign film fans. For those of you who have never sampled Café Suron’s exquisite cuisine, you are missing out on one of the best-kept secrets of Roger’s Park, a classy Persian restaurant filled with surreal artwork, fantastic conversation, the richest tea to be had in miles, and refined flavors infused with the distinct taste of family hospitality. The food is a sensual delight, the company is always pleasurable, and the movies are memorable classics worth viewing multiple times. We gather in Suron’s side room (which seats 10 family style) and feast while projecting the film onto the far wall. Hitchcock and Kurosawa and Polanski and Brando and Dunaway have all been featured, as well as forgotten treasures and quirky new work from around the world. We also screen short films by Stoptime341 and assorted other local filmmakers who care to show their work, and the evening generally unfolds into a satiating night that leaves everyone involved deeply contented. You should come check out a flick with us sometime…

So tonight we watched a recent Japanese film from Chicago’s 2005 International Film Fest that Chris Andrew has been talking up for months, entitled “Cha No Aji”,which translates as “Taste of Tea.” A 3-hour glimpse into the life of a truly absurd Japanese family. Although it was shot interestingly, and the visual style was bizarrely endearing, I thought it could have been stronger with some careful editing. Sometimes stories that take too long to tell lose the immediacy of their impact, and this particular movie arrived at its conclusion without clearly focusing on any one strand of the multiple quirky sub-plots woven into it. I suppose “Taste of Tea” was essentially about how a loving screwball grandfather’s passage into death was paralleled by a spiritual rebirth of each member of his family. But I sometimes lost sight of that larger theme while laughing at the episodes about the boy who shits on a yakuza skull, the biker chick debating the merits of breast implants, the teenage boy’s hormone-driven bike ride marathons, and the little girl’s surreal gigantic astral body-double looming through every shot she appeared in. Still, “Cha No Aji” is a humorous portrait of a really odd family, and well worth a screening if you have the time, the patience, and the right kind of DVD player… Regardless of the film’s pros and cons, I still got a chance to feast on Hawaiian Tilapia, crusted Salmon, Koubideh, Dill rice, Persian tea, and so much more…

Drop me a line if you’d like to know about the next Suron movie night…
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