Carnaval Brazil 2020 at Jazz Kitchen – Saturday February 22nd

Carnaval Brazil 2020 at Jazz Kitchen – Saturday February 22nd!

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS.

One of the most celebrated parties in the world, Brazil’s Carnaval is known for its grand scale, intense samba beat and the visual feast of colors, costumes, floats and dancers. This event will offer Indianapolis an opportunity to taste this Brazilian tradition.

Cultural Cannibals’ Brazilian Carnaval has developed a reputation as the largest Carnaval celebration in Indiana. The 2020 Carnaval celebration will feature:

* Brazilian Samba drummers – The IU Brazilian Ensemble
* Samba dancers
* DJ Kyle Long playing a mix of Carnaval music from Brazil
* Carnaval visuals by Artur Silva
* Special menu with Brazilian food – Feijoada and appetizers
* Brazilian beers, juices and soft drinks
* Caipirinha (the national drink of Brazil)
* Big screen displaying the Carnaval parade in Rio de Janeiro

Advance tickets $15
$20 at the door

For more information please contact 317-332-5612 culturalcannibals@gmail.com, http://www.CulturalCannibals.org

https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4504103

 

 

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Carnaval 2019 – Saturday March 2nd at Jazz Kitchen

Carnaval Brazil – Indy’s BIGGEST and BEST Carnaval party! Saturday, March 2nd at The Jazz Kitchen!

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS.

One of the most celebrated parties in the world, Brazil’s Carnaval is known for its grand scale, intense samba beat and the visual feast of colors, costumes, floats and dancers. This event will offer Indianapolis an opportunity to taste this Brazilian tradition.

Cultural Cannibals’ Brazilian Carnaval has developed a reputation as the largest Carnaval celebration in Indiana. The 2019 Carnaval celebration will feature:

* Brazilian Samba drummers – The IU Brazilian Ensemble
* Samba dancers
* DJ Kyle Long playing a mix of Carnaval music from Brazil
* Carnaval visuals by Artur Silva
* Special menu with Brazilian food – Feijoada and appetizers
* Brazilian beers, juices and soft drinks
* Caipirinha (the national drink of Brazil)
* Big screen displaying the Carnaval parade in Rio de Janeiro

Advance tickets $15
$20 at the door

For more information please contact 317-332-5612 culturalcannibals@gmail.com, http://www.CulturalCannibals.org

 

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Rafiq Bhatia at Newfields

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Heralded by The New York Times as “transcending real sound in real time with the unexpected,” New York composer and guitarist Rafiq Bhatia seeks to shatter preconceptions about how much can be said without a word—and, for that matter, who can say it. Bhatia’s latest work for electroacoustic trio, Breaking English, is an evening-length live performance, featuring Ian Chang on electronic and acoustic drums and Jackson Hill on bass and synthesizers, transformed into an immersive multimedia experience by visual artist Michael Cina and video artist Hal Lovemelt. With its sculptural approach to composition, Breaking English is Bhatia’s deepest integration to date of intricately designed sound art with the riskier art of improvisation. Opening for Bhatia is acclaimed drumming virtuoso Ian Chang, who brings electronic music to the physical realm. Breaking English is co-commissioned by The Jazz Gallery, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series & The Walker Art Center, Newfields: A Place for Nature & the Arts, and the Toledo Museum of Art.

Click here for tickets and more information.

 

 

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Help provide a gravestone for Indianapolis blues singer Ophelia Hoy

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Jim Lingenfelter Collection – The Indiana Album – 1955

Cultural Cannibals is sponsoring a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to purchase a gravestone for Ophelia Hoy, click here to contribute.

“Even though she laughed and smiled when she sung those songs, behind the smile you could see a lot of sadness.” – Howard Pipes on Ophelia Hoy, as quoted in David Williams’ Indianapolis Jazz.

For four decades the vocalist Ophelia Hoy (11/05/1916 – 08/15/1968) was a fixture of the Indianapolis music scene. Ophelia rose to prominence as a blues singer on Indiana Avenue during the late 1930s, but she’d go on to hold down residencies at nightclubs across the city – from the Mayfair Tavern on the Eastside, to the Town & County lounge up north.

Ophelia remained a popular nightclub act in Naptown until her untimely death in 1968. But life as an artist can be rough, and according to accounts from Ophelia’s friends, the singer was living in poverty during the final years of her life. It’s been 50 years since Ophelia passed, and to this day her grave at Floral Park Cemetery remains unmarked.

I started this Go Fund Me campaign to raise money to purchase a headstone for Ophelia Hoy’s grave with the hope of bringing dignity and greater recognition to the legacy of this important figure in Indianapolis music.

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Indianapolis Recorder – 1952

Unfortunately, Ophelia Hoy never made any commercial recordings. My understanding of Ophelia’s unique artistry is limited to historical accounts of her life. According to reports in the Indianapolis Recorder and Indianapolis Star, Ophelia performed with a wide range of music luminaries – including  Ethel Waters, Louis Armstrong, and Wes Montgomery. Ophelia’s name also pops up in the early history of guitar icon Jimi Hendrix. In 1962 Hendrix traveled to Indianapolis on an offer to back Ophelia at a Downtown Indy club called the Brass Rail. Bassist Billy Cox was a member of Hendrix’s band at the time, he later recalled the experience during an interview:

“Jimi and I had been playing together for up to that point, maybe a year and a half together and-ah, we were out of the army. At that particular time we had a place in Clarksville and we came to-ah, Indianapolis because a fellow had told us that he worked-ah, here at the Brass Rail and any time we were in town – he said that he thought we were a good band – he’d like for us to come and he’d hire us. We were to play in the house band backing Ophelia Hoy, a bawdy blues singer.” But after arriving in Indy, Hendrix and crew were denied the job.

Perhaps the most important collaboration of Ophelia’s career was her partnership with the legendary blues pianist “Champion” Jack Dupree. Ophelia and Dupree performed together around 1940 at Naptown’s legendary Cotton Club. Ophelia was an incredibly popular blues vocalist in Indianapolis throughout the ’30s and ‘40s, frequently earning top votes in the Indianapolis Recorder’s annual music poll.

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Ophelia Hoy’s obituary in the Indianapolis Recorder – 1968

Outside of her work as an entertainer there is little biographical documentation of Ophelia’s life. Writer David Williams collected the following information in his essential 2014 book Indianapolis Jazz:

“Ophelia Hoy was born on November 5, 1916 in Macon, Georgia. As a child she worked as a domestic for a wealthy white family who treated her badly. From this traumatic experience she developed an intense hatred of whites. In the early 1930s, she moved to Indianapolis and obtained a job at the Indiana State Fair singing popular blues songs. As longtime Indianapolis resident Howard Pipes remembered, ‘I saw Ophelia in the 1930s at the fair sitting on a bandwagon wearing a soiled white dress singing these lively, comical songs. Even though she laughed and smiled when she sung those songs, behind the smile you could see a lot of sadness.’ ”

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1962 advertisement 

Williams’ also comments on the often demeaning treatment Ophelia received from white club owners during the 1950s and 1960s:

“At the Playhouse Bar, Town and Country Lounge, and the Brass Rail, which were white establishments, she would dress like a Mammy type, with a polka-dotted bandana on her head, and sing risqué songs to the delight of the raucous audiences… According to performer Flo Garvin, the club’s owners insisted that Hoy don the costume and assume the obedient maid persona while she sang the bawdy songs. However, Hoy was an extremely proud woman who loved and respected Indiana Avenue, and her people, but she needed to earn a living. Sadly in her last days on earth, Hoy was a recipient of welfare and died on August 15, 1968 at Marion County General Hospital.”

Ophelia Hoy’s legacy in Indianapolis music is in dire need of restoration. Your contribution to this fundraising campaign is an important part of this process. Thanks for your time and consideration.

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Indianapolis Recorder – 1949

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Brazil… By Way of Israel: The Music of Anat Cohen

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Anat Cohen & Trio Brasileiro will play Indy Jazz Fest on September 16 

 

Clarinetist-saxophonist Anat Cohen fell in love with jazz as a child growing up in Tel Aviv, Israel. Cohen’s passion for jazz brought her to the United States during the late ‘90s to study music at Boston’s Berklee College. But Cohen’s attention shifted at Berklee, as she befriended a group of Brazilian students that introduced her to the musical traditions of their homeland.

Today Cohen’s artistic identity is tied closely to Brazilian music. Cohen has recorded in a variety Brazilian genres, but lately her focus has been on choro – an improvised form that developed in Rio de Janeiro during the late 1800s.

And it’s choro music that brings Cohen to Indy Jazz Fest. She’ll be performing with Trio Brasileiro at The Cabaret on Sunday, September 16. Cohen has recorded two albums with Trio Brasileiro, including the Grammy-nominated Rosa Dos Ventos in 2017.

Read on to learn more about Cohen’s passion for Brazilian music, and head to IndyJazzFest.net to grab a ticket.

 

Kyle Long: You’ve worked extensively in the choro style. In addition to the two albums you’ve released with Trio Brasileiro, you also recorded a pair of albums with The Choro Ensemble. 

What was it about choro music that grabbed you?

Anat Cohen: First of all, I love the sound of it. I love the combination of happy and uplifting sounds with the lamenting elements, which is a lot like jazz.

When I first encountered choro, I was playing saxophone. When I was playing jazz I couldn’t quite find myself on the clarinet. But then I found this genre of music called choro where the clarinet fit so perfectly. It was very exciting for me to go back to playing the clarinet, and to be playing Brazilian music. I fell in love with Brazilian music before I started playing choro.

So I was happy to be able to combine my love for clarinet, my love for Brazilian music, and my love for jazz. For me, choro is a perfect amalgamation of jazz and classical music with Brazilian rhythms. 

 

Kyle Long: Choro is often described in shorthand as a Brazilian version of early North American jazz forms. I’m curious if you approach playing choro music in the same way you approach playing straight-ahead jazz?

Anat Cohen: No, not at all. We use that description to give people a sense of what the music is like. Bot for me, that’s not really what it is. 

Choro is polyphonic music, and it has multiple melodic lines. There’s a connection there with some of the music from New Orleans. If you listen to the Louis Armstrong All-Stars there are various melodies happening at the same time, and they are all almost equally important. I love the fact that you can accompany with a melodic line, for me as a horn player it’s a blessing. Obviously I cannot play chords on the clarinet.

Kyle Long: You alluded to this earlier – your work in choro music is just one facet of a deeper appreciation for Brazilian Music. In the past you’ve recorded music from great Brazilian MPB songwriters like Chico Buarque and Milton Nascimento. You also spent time performing and recording with the great Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista.

How did Brazilian music first enter your life?

Anat Cohen: I found out much later that Brazilian music entered my life while I was growing up in Israel. There was a lot of Brazilian music brought into Israel and performed with Hebrew lyrics. In my ignorance I grew up thinking it was Israeli music. [laughs]

I met Brazilian music students while I was attending Berklee College of Music in Boston. The music for me was always inseparable from the people, the culture, the love of life, the celebration of life, and the language, which I now speak. It’s been an ongoing affair since I encountered Brazilian students who were studying alongside me at Berklee College of Music.

I was fascinated by how similar Brazilian people are to Israelis, in their expression, and in the physicality and warmth shared when people are together. I felt very much at home with Brazilian people right from the start. It was a natural connection to explore the music during my visits to Brazil. I keep discovering more. Brazil is a big country, and there’s so much music to explore.

Kyle Long: Anything you want to share about your upcoming appearance at Indy Jazz Fest with Trio Brasileiro?

Anat Cohen: We all come from the tradition of jazz, but there’s a lot of influences in this group. It’s amazing that we can get such a big sound with just a guitar, mandolin, pandeiro, and a clarinet. Dudu Maia, Douglas Lora, and Alexandre Lora are incredible musicians.

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Anat Cohen & Trio Brasileiro

 

Kyle Long: Thanks for taking time to speak with me today. I’m a huge fan of Brazilian music. We don’t get to hear a lot of it in Indiana, so I’m excited for your upcoming show.

Anat Cohen: Well, I’m very happy that you like Brazilian music, and I can’t wait to come play in Indianapolis with these guys. 

 

Anat Cohen interpreting a Flying Lotus composition:

 

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Harold López-Nussa brings Havana to Indianapolis

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Harold López-Nussa plays Indy Jazz Fest on September 14

 

If you can only attend one show at this year’s Indy Jazz Fest, I’d highly recommend hitting Harold López-Nussa’s September 14th date at The Jazz Kitchen. López-Nussa is a regular at many of the top international jazz festivals, so catching the Cuban keyboard wizard in the intimate confines of The Jazz Kitchen will offer a rare, and likely unforgettable experience.

López-Nussa’s music is rooted deeply in Cuban tradition, but his voice on the piano overflows with fresh ideas. I recently caught up with the pianist to discuss the past, and future sound of Cuban music.

 

 

Kyle Long: I understand you were born into a prolific musical family in Cuba. Your uncle Ernán López-Nussa is an accomplished pianist who played with Silvio Rodríguez and many other important artists in Cuba. Tell me about the role of music in your family’s life.

Harold López-Nussa: I really feel lucky to be born in this family. I was surrounded by music all my life. My mother was a piano teacher. My father is a drummer. As you said, my uncle is kind of a famous piano player in Havana. Even my grandmother was a very good piano player. She was not a professional, but she used to play Chopin a lot in her house. Music is really important in my family.

Kyle Long: You began formal piano studies at age eight. You were initially studying European classical music. At what point did you take an interest in jazz?

Harold López-Nussa: I was always interested in jazz. My father and uncle played jazz. But it took me awhile to decide to try myself. I was learning classical music, so for me the change was scary in the beginning. It’s scary to play something you don’t know. It took me until I was eighteen, that was the point when I decided to try to play jazz.

Kyle Long: There are so many important jazz pianists in Cuban music. What were you listening to that inspired you to try playing jazz? 

Harold López-Nussa: Obviously my father and uncle were a huge influence. But also Chucho Valdés. I remember once he came to my school when I was a kid and he was playing for us. I was crazy about his playing. I said to myself, “I want to play this music someday.” 

Chucho Valdés’ father Bebo Valdés was also an important pianist for me. Frank Emilio Flynn is another one of my favorite Cuban pianists.

 My father and uncle introduced me to the music of Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, and Bill Evans. My father used to listen to a lot of Bill Evans and Miles Davis. So all those big names inspired me.

 

 

Kyle Long: I want to hear your thoughts on the evolution of Cuban music. There are a lot of interesting things happening in Cuban music right now with artists mixing traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms with electronic music sounds. In 2009 your music was featured on the British DJ Gilles Peterson’s compilation album Gilles Peterson Presents Havana Cultura: New Cuba Sound.

Do you see yourself as part of this movement to push Cuban music forward?

Harold López-Nussa: Definitely, that’s what we are trying to do. There are so many artists in Cuba right now doing interesting things with jazz, pop, and hip-hop. It’s not just the traditional things people know about Cuba like the son, and bolero. There’s a lot of other things going on in Cuba. I like this a lot when artists mix the traditional music with the future. It’s something very interesting. 

In Cuba the most popular music right now is not exactly the best, but there are a lot of great artists doing incredible things. They’re trying to export their art to the rest of the world, but it is hard.

Kyle Long: The United States and Cuba have a beautiful relationship musically, and our individual cultures have enriched one another greatly over the years. Unfortunately our politicians can’t ever get on the same page.

How have the political changes in America under the current presidential administration impacted your ability to share your music with listeners in the United States?

Harold López-Nussa: Definitely, with the Obama administration’s approach to Cuba we had a lot more exposure in the United States. That’s why I was able to make a deal with the label Mack Avenue Records in the United States. I was also able for the first time to do a big tour in the States.

Right now it’s a different situation. It’s getting more and more difficult for us to be here. But we’re still trying. We’re here and we have a 27 city tour, so we feel very lucky.

I feel a huge connection with audiences in the United States. You can feel it. They really appreciate the Cuban music, and they want to know more about it. So for us this is very special to share that. 

Kyle Long: Tell me about the group you’ll be bringing to Indianapolis for Jazz Fest.

Harold López-Nussa: This is the same group who played on my last CD Un Día Cualquiera. It’s very special for me because those guys have been playing with me for awhile. My brother Ruy Adrián López-Nussa is on drums, and then Gastón Joya is on bass. We’ve been playing together for more than ten years, but this is the first time we are touring together as a trio. I’m very lucky to have those guys playing with me, because they know my music very well. They almost know my compositions better than I do myself.

Kyle Long: Thanks so much for taking time to speak with me. I’m a big of fan your music and it was a pleasure to speak with you.

Harold López-Nussa: Oh no, it’s my pleasure. Thank you.

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Barbara Dane Reflects on a Life of Music and Activism

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 “The world needs more people like Barbara, someone who is willing to follow her conscience. She is, if the term must be used, a hero.” – Bob Dylan

 

In a perfect world I wouldn’t need to explain who Barbara Dane is.

In a perfect world women musicians would receive the same respect and credit for their accomplishments as their male counterparts do.

In a perfect world musicians who use their art for advancing the cause of social justice wouldn’t be marginalized to the fringes of the scene.

But this is not a perfect world, and viewing Barbara Dane’s achievements in the light of this fact makes them all the more important and impressive.

Barbara Dane possesses an extraordinary voice. Over the years Dane has used that voice as an instrument of protest against war, racism, and injustice. Dane rose to national prominence in the 1950s as an impassioned interpreter of traditional jazz, blues, and folk music. But after reaching the cusp of popular success, Dane chose to trade fortune and fame for substance.

Smithsonian Folkways Records has honored Dane’s contributions to American music with a 2-CD retrospective titled Hot Jazz, Cool Blues & Hard-Hitting Songs, and a vinyl reissue of Dane’s classic 1966 Folkways LP Barbara Dane and the Chambers Brothers. I recently caught up with Dane to discuss these reissues, and her lifelong commitment to activism and music. Check out out our conversation below, and head to BarbaraDane.net for more information on her work.

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Kyle Long: The collision between music and activism started early in your life. I understand you were singing on the picket lines in Detroit as a young person. Is that right?

Barbara Dane: Yes it is. Detroit was one of the most racist cities in the north, or anywhere in the country. When I was growing up it was impossible, and I mean impossible to sit down with a Black friend and have a cup of coffee. Unless you went to the Black neighborhoods. You had to go to what they called Paradise Valley, which was a horrible slum buried in the center of Detroit. It was there in that area and climate that I realized I wanted to stand up for certain things, and against certain things. I found out I could do that by singing.

I started out singing on picket lines and during demonstrations. Those were the first mass audiences I had. [laughs] That’s it, Detroit did it. 

 

Kyle Long: How did those early experiences singing on the picket lines shape your concept of the role music can have in our lives?

Barbara Dane: I studied singing with a wonderful teacher who was a bel canto trainer, that is grand opera. The only kind of singing teacher you could find in those days was someone teaching classical forms of singing. When I was a young teenager I had some lessons with Mr. Coats and he taught me to throw my voice out there as if I was singing at Carnegie Hall. 

When I thought about the songs I was singing, they didn’t really say anything for me. They were nice, and the poetry was great, but they didn’t change anything or do anything. When I began to sing in these other situations, I saw people came from a place way down deep with problems. Everyone comes to a demonstration with a heart full of problems, and puzzles about the world. As the music took over they would brighten up and start to sing with me, and march. It was very exciting to see that music could move people, and that I could actually affect something. 

Music will not change the world, but you can’t imagine a world without music.

I graduated from high school in 1945, and something happened that year that changed the whole world, and me too. That was the dropping of the atomic bomb and the quick instant death of hundreds of thousands of people in Japan. Everybody knew that this would change the world. It changed the future radically. We would always have to refer anything in our minds to the possibility of this thing being used again somewhere, or somehow. That still hangs over us. 

Beyond that, Michigan had this Equal Accommodations Act that was not being practiced. So me and a few friends from an organization called American Youth for Democracy decided to do a test case at a big hotel in Detroit called the Barlum Hotel across from Cadillac Square. Cadillac Square was a traditional gathering place for all the union rallies. So we decided to test the place and they threw us out. We started a big picket line every Saturday, and that was were I really started singing. 

I was singing songs like, [sings] “We’re gonna roll, we’re gonna roll the union on.” There was a great song about this Southern senator Bilbo who was one of the most notorious racist senators. [sings] “So listen Mr. Bilbo, listen to me. I’ll give you a lesson in history. Listen and I’ll show you that the foreigners you hate are the very same folks that made America great. You don’t like Negroes, and you don’t like Jews. If there’s anybody you do like it sure is news.”

That song was something out of the People’s Songs Bulletin, which was a creation of Pete Seeger. Pete had just gotten out of the service, and right away he started thinking about how to get people singing, and how to get people thinking about issues.

So Pete came to Detroit to try to find someone to organize a Detroit chapter of what he called People’s Songs. I was around eighteen or nineteen then, Pete recruited me and I started a little chapter. It wasn’t very big, but people encouraged me to keep going and I went on from there playing the guitar and singing for all these different organizations that would book me for their PTA meetings, or church socials. Whatever it was, I always sang songs with content and meaning. 

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Kyle Long: You mentioned the racism and segregation in Detroit during your formative years. How did you as a young White woman immerse yourself in Black music idioms in opposition to this racist system that was tearing people apart?

Barbara Dane: Well, I first listened to records of course. I found old blues records in a dusty second hand record store. I started listening to blues records alongside the opera records I was listening to. I found the music very moving.

But growing up a White girl in Detroit at that time I wasn’t able to go into the Black clubs in Paradise Valley. I was too young to go into the clubs at all at that time. But I did get a false ID and I did sneak into a place where Dinah Washington was making her first attempts at singing up north. She was very country. She looked very country, and her whole demeanor was different from what you’d know of Dinah Washington later. But it was great to slip in and see her.

But this thing about being a White girl trying to soak up Black culture, wherever I was it was the same story. I always had to be very careful to indicate I was there for the music, not to pick up a guy, or be bought and sold. I had to make it known that I was a musician and I was there to listen to the music, and that’s it. So I had to be very cool. I had to walk cool, you know?

 

Kyle Long: You ended up collaborating with an unbelievable list of musicians, from jazz greats like Earl Hines and Louis Armstrong, to blues players like Lightnin’ Hopkins. From your position as a cultural outsider, how did you earn the trust and respect of these musicians to the point that they were willing to collaborate with you? 

Barbara Dane: That’s a good question. I really don’t know. I guess it was just by doing what I was doing. When I sang a whole evening of classic blues, I always started off by crediting who wrote the song and where it came from, and I always interpreted the music from my own point of view.

The great bass player Pops Foster once took me aside when I was wondering if what I was doing was the right thing. Pops said, “Listen, keep it up. You’re doing very well, and you’re obviously sincere. There’s nobody else doing this stuff, and it needs to be kept alive. So keep on, keep on, keep on.” I felt empowered by that.

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Barbara Dane and The Chambers Brothers

 

Kyle Long: I mentioned that you have a couple reissue projects currently happening with Folkways Records. The first is a reissue of your 1966 album Barbara Dane and the Chambers BrothersAt that point in your career you’d been recording and releasing music for about ten years. But this was really your first collection of protest music, right?

Barbara Dane: I don’t know. I can’t remember. But I’d been trying for a long time to get the Brothers to record with me. When I started singing those freedom songs, especially at the Ash Grove in L.A., I always wanted harmonies. One day Ed Pearl booked this young gospel quartet known as The Chambers Brothers. I heard them singing, and I invited them to come onstage with me and jam on some harmonies. We did it, and it came off so well that I started booking them to come and sing with me. So I said, “Let’s record this.”

Before the record with The Chambers Brothers, I had previously been recording with Capitol Records. A producer at Capitol named Curly Walter suggested that I make an album with Jimmy Witherspoon. Well, the suits upstairs wouldn’t let us do it. They said no, because they couldn’t put a picture on the cover of a Black man and a White woman. If you look back at the album covers of the ’50s and early ’60s, you don’t see that combination at all. So suddenly I come out with four Black guys standing behind me and singing with me. In a way I thought was the most innovative part of the album.

By the way, I think Capitol dumped my contract because of State Department interference. I strongly believe that, though I can’t prove it. It was right when I was invited by Louis Armstrong to tour with him in Europe. It also coincided with the time that he was coming out as an ardent advocate of civil rights. Louis was supposed to go on tour in Europe with the State Department.

Why was the State Department sending American jazz artists to tour Europe? They wanted everybody to think that everything new and modern happened in the U.S.A. and we were where it was at.

But if all of the sudden Louis showed up with a blue-eyed blonde as his latest discovery, who actually had a big mouth about racism, it wouldn’t have worked for their purposes. So they pulled me off the tour. But like I say, there’s no way to prove that. 

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Barbara Dane w/ Louis Armstrong circa 1959

 

Kyle Long: So some of the commercial labels you recorded with like Capitol and Dot would have been resistant to you singing protest songs?

Barbara Dane: Oh, I don’t know. I wouldn’t even have tried it with them. I never asked anybody for permission, I just do what I do. I never really got censored by any of them. I think it was known by the time they got me in the studio that I had my own thoughts about what I was gonna do. 

The only censorship I can recall was at Dot Records. The owner was somebody with strict rules about alcohol and sex and whatever. Pat Boone was their favorite person. I was singing “Why Don’t You Do Right?” and there’s a line in there, “I fell for your jive and took you in, and all you got to offer me is a drink of gin.” They said, “You can’t say that! You’ve got to say something else.” So I quickly changed it to, “All you’ve got to offer me is a silly grin.” Well, I knew that all of my listeners would understand that I would never say something as stupid as that. [laughs] 

Anyhow, you might’ve noticed that every record I made was on a different label. That’s because I didn’t play by the rules. 

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Barbara Dane performs at the Newport Folk Festival in July, 1964

 

Kyle Long: So there’s nothing specific you can point to that explains why you were able to record this album of protest music with the Chambers Brothers at this time in your career?

Barbara Dane: Yeah, what I can point to is Moses Asch and Folkways. Moe was very democratic about what he’d put out. In fact, he’d put out doggone near anything if he could roll it along his assembly line. But he was certainly proud to do that album, and in fact, he engineered it.

 

Kyle Long: One of my favorite tracks on your album with The Chambers Brothers is “It Isn’t Nice”. Did you cowrite that song with Malvina Reynolds?

Barbara Dane: Malvina Reynolds wrote “It Isn’t Nice” after she took part in the sit-ins at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. There was a sleep-in. They all brought sleeping bags and laid down in the lobby of this fancy hotel. So Mal wrote it, and the tune she had was kind of a folky tune. It kind of reeked of Whiteness. [laughs]

I was going to Mississippi and I wanted the words of the tune to get over, so I changed the tune. I tried to make it something you could dance to, and it worked. Everybody was jumping on that song when I was in Mississippi. So Mal said, “That’s alright, you do it your way and I’ll do it my way. It’s all good.”

Kyle Long: I’ll love your version. It sounds like you were were influenced by doo-wop music, or some of the early Motown stuff.

Barbara Dane: Oh definitely, and Sam Cooke. I was trying to copy off Sam Cooke, but I could never imitate that glorious voice. But that was the idea. 

Kyle Long: The second project you have with Folkways is a compilation titled Hot Jazz, Cool Blues & Hard-Hitting Songs, which showcases the wide range of music you’ve performed throughout your life. Did you have a role in the track selection for that album?

Barbara Dane: I did, and so did my daughter Nina Menendez. Nina was asked to co-produce the album with Jeff Place from Smithsonian Folkways. Jeff is one of the main curators and archivists there. So I had a chance to put thumbs up, or thumbs down on things. It was hard. I don’t do things that I don’t feel close to, or like a lot. So it was kind of like Sophie’s Choice in a way. [laughs] If you choose one it means the other can’t go on. It was hard choosing, and there was a lot to choose from.

I don’t know how much you’ve explored it, but the first CD is all from the labels that Smithsonian Folkways controls. But the second CD is all stuff that was sitting in my cellar gathering dust for forty years. My daughter Nina took these tapes to an incredible expert technician by the name of Jessica Johnson. She made all these dusty tapes sound really good. So we decided to put them out.

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Huey Newton Speaks, a 1970 release on Dane’s Paredon Records label

 

Kyle Long: You mentioned that first disc of Hot Jazz, Cool Blues & Hard-Hitting Songs is drawn from labels that Smithsonian Folkways has rights to. One those labels happens to be one of my favorite record labels. I’m talking about Paredon Records, which you cofounded with Irwin Silber.

Paredon Records released revolutionary music from the Dominican Republic, Thailand, Angola, Cuba, Vietnam, Mexico and many other places. Paredon also released spoken word recordings from important historical figures like Huey Newton and Che Guevara.

Can you tell me what inspired you to start Paredon Records in 1969?

Barbara Dane: Oh, I’m happy to tell you about that. I was one of the first to break the cultural blockade with Cuba. I went down there and did a tour all over the country in 1966. I got to be friends with a lot of the cultural people in Cuba. In 1967 they decided to put on what they called on Encuentro and they invited people from all over the world to perform. It was my opportunity to meet and appreciate people from all over Latin America, and as far away as Australia, South Africa, and Vietnam. People came from the trenches of Vietnam. 

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Barbara Dane in Cuba w/ Fidel Castro

 

After that, I went home and started thinking about how xenophobic America was then. It was terrible. If I sang a song in another language people would come up to me and say, “Why did you do that?”

I wanted to capture the passion and purpose of all these singers I’d heard, and I wanted to figure out how it could be understood by the people here. At first I tried to learn their songs in their languages. But that didn’t work. Then I tried writing English lyrics, and I did write some good ones that worked OK. But I began to realize that the best thing would be if people could hear the singers themselves, because that’s the essence. 

So I realized I had to have a record label that could do that. So I started telling everybody I met that I was going to start a record label. People said, “How are you going to that?” I said, “Well, I’m looking for anybody who could help sponsor it.” A friend of mine called up and said, “I think I’ve got somebody.” A guy came over, and his fortune came from a place where he had a bad conscience about it. He gave me $17,000 and that was the whole seed money for the whole thing. 

In those days record companies would spend $17,000 to do a couple songs in the studio. But we never had any other capitalization for the whole thing. We did it by doing all the work ourselves and recruiting our friends. If somebody came over for dinner, after dinner they had to do some proofreading. Or I’d get on them to write an article for the booklets. Those are very thorough booklets. I always had knowledgable people writing about the movement and the artists. And I always had side-by-side translations of the songs so you could actually follow them in your own language. It would help you learn another language if you did. That’s how I learned a lot of Spanish.

When it was all said and done, I think it took about eleven years to do those fifty Paredon albums. I was it doing Paredon during the time I was also doing G.I. organizing wth my songs, and traveling all around America and going to the Far East and Europe trying to support the anti-Vietnam war resistance. When I would come home dead tired from all that, I’d still have to work on my latest issues for Paredon.

Irwin had worked with Folkways, and knew something about marketing, and he got that kickstarted by very economical means. So anyway, we did it. I look back on the Paredon thing and think that something that seemed like I was trying to squeeze into my schedule for ten years was actually one of the main things I was doing. I’m so proud of it, and I’m so happy with it. I want people to go to the Smithsonian Folkways website and look at it, and soak it up. It was human blood, sweat, and tears on record. 

 

Kyle Long: One of my favorite records on the Paredon label is your own 1973 release I Hate the Capitalist System.

Barbara Dane: Alright! [laughs]

Kyle Long: That’s such a powerful statement, and the album cover is just that phrase in bold letters. Tell me about making that statement and how it was received at the time.

Barbara Dane: Well, I was very taken by Sarah Ogan Gunning’s song “I hate the capitalist system, and what it has done to me.” It’s so stark and so unadorned by fake anything. It’s so real, and the first line is, “I hate the capitalist system.” So I said, “Let’s call the album that.”

People would say, “What do you mean hate? Why do you have to use a word like that?” Well, because I do! I do hate it. I won’t use that word about a lot things, but when it comes to the capitalist system and the depredations that it still enforces on the planet, I will use that phrase happily to try to wake you up and make you open your eyes to see where you stand. That to me is what all my songs are doing, challenging your assumptions and asking where you stand in all this.

 

Kyle Long: We’ve been talking about the music in the Smithsonian Folkways collection and I want to move outside of that collection for a moment. We’ve also been talking about a lot of serious themes in your music, but early in your career you made a fantastic dance record titled “I’m On My Way”.

You recorded “I’m On My Way” twice. First as a Lee Halewood produced single for Trey Records in 1960, and later as the title track of your 1962 LP for Capitol Records.

Barbara Dane: As I’m sure you know it’s a traditional song. I have no idea who wrote it. I got my tune for it from Mahalia Jackson, and took it in my own direction. I always made up my lines. Some are traditional, and some you grab out of the air as you need them, you make up the rest as you look in the audience and see who’s there.

That song has taken me everywhere. [laughs] What can I say? It’s been an important song in my life and it still is. 

Kyle Long: Are you aware of the cult following the record has among DJs, particularly in the British Northern Soul scene?

Barbara Dane: Yes I am. They once invited me to come to L.A. to be at a convention. They were all gonna come from England to L.A. to meet what they considered to be the big stars of the 45 RPM single scene. [laughs] I didn’t go. I figured I didn’t need the vanity trip.

Kyle Long: What do you make of the fact that your recording of this song is still so meaningful to music fans?

Barbara Dane: It’s amazing. But it isn’t really my song, it’s only me doing it. I know the song will be around forever, long after me.

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Kyle Long: Earlier in our conversation you mentioned that you had a suspicion that Capitol Records dropped you due to State Department interference. You were very active in the movement for social justice during the ’60s and ’70s. That was a time when there was a lot of government surveillance of people who were considered dissidents. Was there a drawer in the FBI file cabinet with your name on it?

Barbara Dane: Oh my god. [laughs] They started my file when I was eighteen. I have stuff dating back that far. I’ve been getting my Freedom of Information papers gradually, but they’ve been sitting on the last big bunch. I’ve got stacks of papers here. I’ve got huge notebooks of stuff they’ve sent me. A lot of it is repetitious, “She want to that meeting. She went to that other meeting.” It’s very boring. But then they’ll go into elaborate discussion about how a particular demo was put together.

When I look though it all, I think, “What a waste of tax payer dollars.” All I was ever doing was singing songs and trying to get people to think about peace, and justice, and good times, and love. But they spent all that money that could’ve built schools and libraries. 

Kyle Long: Did you have any sense at the time that someone was tracking your movements?

Barbara Dane: Sure, I could see them. I’d check in at the airport and I’d see some guy in FBI drag go over to the counter and look at whatever the clerk had copied. You could smell it. But who cares? They know what everybody does anyway. 

Unless you have some serious business to hide, don’t worry about it. [laughs] In general, I’d never worry about the fact that they know everything about you. Just make sure that what they know is good. [laughs] 

Kyle Long: You were never imitated by it?

Barbara Dane: Not at all. Not in the least.

Kyle Long: That’s great.

Barbara Dane: Why? [laughs] Why worry? The object of a lot of it is to intimidate you. It’s supposed to make you nervous and to look over your shoulder. It’s supposed to make you distrust the person you’re working with. That’s the object of what they’re doing. I’m not going to fall into that.

 

Kyle Long: There’s a famous quote from a letter Bob Dylan wrote to Broadside magazine in 1964. Dylan said,  “The world needs more people like Barbara, someone who is willing to follow her conscience. She is, if the term must be used, a hero.”

I certainly regard you as a hero. I’m curious how you feel about that Dylan quote, and being called a hero?

Barbara Dane: It’s intimidating in a way, and embarrassing. I don’t know. But people need symbols. Symbolizing certain things is okay with me. You have to realize that it’s a function of society. And if you’re going to be a symbol, try to be something you want to symbolize. [laughs] It’s that easy.

Kyle Long: Any current projects you’re working on that you want to share?

Barbara Dane: Yes, I was wanting to tell you about some of the things the Barbara Dane Legacy Project is doing. It was initially engendered by my daughter Nina Menendez, but a lot of other people have gotten involved. We have a lengthy list of people on our advisory board, like David Amram and Judy Collins. 

Nina is the founder and curator of the Bay Area Flamenco Festival and she is a busy woman. But she sees me getting older and older, and figures that a lot of things would be better handled while I’m still alive. She’s gonna half to follow up after I’m gone, so she might as well build the archives now.

So the Legacy Project has helped to pull together quite a few things that are happening. The double CD on Smithsonian Folkways was one of the first projects. Part of what got that started is when Nina went into archives and started digitizing material there. The archives contain all sorts of notes, and programs. She’s found some incredibly interesting things. She found some telegrams from Langston Hughes. He would often send me a telegram wishing me well on my opening night. He had sent me some blues that he wrote. I guess he was hoping I’d do something with them, but I didn’t. She found a Christmas card from Ella Fitzgerald, another one Lizzie Miles, the great New Orleans singer that I idolized. That’s all being put together in an archival setting, and will eventually be offered to some university. 

One of the biggest things happening is the film project. A film is being made about me, and they’ve been following me around for two or three years. They’ve been recording concerts, and interviews in different situations. Maureen Gosling is the director. She worked for years with Les Blank. Are you familiar with his work?

Kyle Long: Yeah, he’s one of my favorite filmmakers.

Barbara Dane: Well, Maureen was his right-hand person for years. Maureen is a treasure, and she’s working with some excellent camera people including Ashley James. In Cuba we used Roberto Chile who is also a great photographer.

So the film project is happening, and I’m also writing my memoir. What else? That’s a lot isn’t it? [laughs]

Kyle Long: That is a lot. 

Barbara Dane: It’s very satisfying, because I’m ninety-one and I know won’t be here forever. Somewhere in the middle of my nineties I’ll fade away. That’s fine with me. I can say that because all this stuff is going on, and I know that I won’t be forgotten by everybody. I’ll be forgotten by most people, but I’ll still have some little pile of dust where somebody can look me up.

 

Kyle Long: Thank you so much for taking time to speak with me Ms. Dane. You mentioned the importance of having a symbol, someone to look to as a guide. You’ve been that symbol for me in my work in learning how to use music to do right by other people. It’s been a profound influence on me. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to speak with you, and it was a pleasure to speak with you.

Barbara Dane: Well Kyle, I can’t begin to tell you how gratifying it is to know that there’s a guy in Indianapolis  that’s doing good stuff who thinks like that.

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