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, June 17, 2005

Africa Hi-Fi @ Sonotheque

Worked the Africa Hi-Fi merchandise table all night. Had the wonderful chance to meet a few amazing people: the artist Chadwick did a live installation at the gig, painting a huge canvas over the course of the evening, and I was working in a room that had three of his masterful paintings on display. I highly recommend checking out his work. Also talked to Angel Luis Figueroa, the guest artist of the month, a magnificent Puerto Rican percussionist/producer based out of LA, and he was kind and generous enough to spend a few minutes talking to me about politics in music and the subtleties of sending a message through the intricate interplay of rhythm and words. I dropped some Six Degrees CDs in his hands, and my most recent DJ mix, but I think I got the better end of the deal just by having the chance to talk to him for a few minutes. There is something incredibly powerful about veteran percussionists schooled in the Afro-Caribbean tradition, they carry in their presence the awareness of the Yoruba powers underlying the music we make, and that awareness bleeds out of their very pores. They are links to a neglected realm, and beneath their hands a tapestry of beats emerges that wraps any who listen in the folds of powerful old ceremonies that tap deep into the collective memory. Angel's set, at the very peak of the evening, was a blissful overwhelming event for some, and an annoyance for some of the House kids who "just want to dance." I suppose we receive what we are open to receive... To those who can't get into a conga/DJ set, filled with chants & calls & response, it's their goddamn loss...
The evening was the 1-year anniversary of Africa Hi-Fi, it's been a year since I met Sonia Hassan and began to appreciate the incredible aesthetic & skills of my favorite DJ, the inimitable Ron Trent. Sonia outdid herself this month with gifts for the staff, an array of sustainable plantain chips from Equador, and with custom strings of beads from Africa for her legion of club friends who can't seem to scare up the willingness to part with $10 to get down all night long. She maintained a general air of goodwill and celebration that colored anyone who crossed her path. However, she pushed herself hard, and was short of breath at the end of the evening... To be a conduit for a community is a taxing, thankless job that milks the most generous souls dry... Sonia gives so much of herself in everything she's involved in, and it's frightening sometimes to see how oblivious people are to her health. For every party that works, there's an overworked, undercompensated promoter whose blood, sweat, and tears are woven deep into the mix. I've learned so much from Africa Hi-Fi, the least of which is what it takes to really make sacrifices for what you want to achieve. I hope to spend another year working with Ron & Sonia, because they're truly surfing the leading edge of Afro-centric futuristic sound, which taps into the source and looks to the future all at the same time...

concept gatherings and spicy plantain chips
amnesty pamphlets & hordes of shaking hips
live installations & funky dreads
the next generation of conscious house heads
deep throbbing bass & Fela onscreen
some of the flyest people i've seen on the scene
dub & bailefunk & boricua riffs
weave it all together and the center of gravity shifts...

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