lately ive been on a bit of a researching tip focused on the original 1960s SKINHEAD culture in ENGLAND and have been consuming various DON LETTS documentaries, rewatching MADE IN BRITAIN (ITV, 1982) and THIS IS ENGLAND (WARP FILMS, 2006) and seeking out copies of the RICHARD ALLEN novels SKINHEAD (1970) and SUEDEHEAD (1971). let me know if you have a copy
of course, part of investigating the trajectory of that movement (and its unfortunate infiltration by the NATIONAL FRONT and extreme right-wing politics) is the 2-TONE SKA movement of the late 1970s, which celebrated diversity and multiculturalism. the fact that it attracted unwanted attention from racist idiots is something i still don't understand.
great music though. THE SPECIALS, MADNESS, THE ENGLISH BEAT and THE SELECTER are all amazing. cant say the same for those 1990s revival bands though.
i am by no means a fan of modern COUNTRY MUSIC, as i make abundantly clear in this throwback episode dedicated to the GOLDEN AGE OF COUNTRY MUSIC.
what gets me about the old stuff is the lack of bullshit. lyrically JIMMIE RODGERS, ERNEST TUBB and HANK WILLIAMS are so cutting and raw that its hard not to respect them as songwriters, even if rhythmically the music is rather lacking and lifeless relative to their BLUES contemporaries.
even if you are like me and not a fan of the overproduced, underwritten schmaltz that passes for modern COUNTRY MUSIC, this set list will hopefully provide you with some rays of hop for the genre as a whole. you have to remember that it was this tradition that cross-pollinated with BLUES that gave way to ROCKABILLY and early ROCK N ROLL.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
listening to the greater discussion these days regarding ONLINE / REMOTE / HYBRID LEARNING is something i find interesting due to the fact that in a previous life i was an english teacher who worked abroad in international schools (specifically in VENEZUELA, JAPAN and MYANMAR) and utilized such. my experiences obviously were played out long before the current pandemic, which unfortunately shows no signs of abating and has made such a classroom a necessity.
what drew me to online learning was a sense of student accountability. when i was studying at TEACHERS COLLEGE COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY there was this program run by a professor called the STUDENT PRESS INITIATIVE. the basic idea around such was to locate at-risk youth, usually students already incarcerated with the juvenile detention centers and have them write. volunteers would tutor them and eventually they would create a product that would be published yearly by the prestigious COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS. it was meant as a means of empowering students through writing. as published authors these kids would speak at forums and ultimately take pride in their work and those of others. the basic concept of leveraging the university to empower at-risk youth always stuck with me.
when i began teaching abroad i found myself in communities that were fiercely collectivistic. this meant my students were largely motivated by the opinions of their peers and family, unlike AMERICAN kids that are generally individualistic. my idea was to publish their written work, all of it. no tests or quizzes, but written papers and projects from class. the act of making it public for their classmates to see up the ante. usually i was attempting to reinforce basic literary, research and communication skills and by publishing such i leveraged the community against the individual. by and large it worked.
at TEACHERS COLLEGE COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY there was also much promotion of project-based learning as opposed to testing. learning comes from the adaptation, modification and implementation of concepts rather than rote memorization of such (this pragmatic approach goes back to JOHN DEWEY). unfortunately now everything is the later and not the former.
given that i was overseas, i'd often have students write articles about their community, especially those people would not think to interview. in MYANMAR my students interviewed and wrote articles about ORPHANAGES, FARMERS, TAILORS, TEA LEAVE MERCHANTS, JADE MERCHANTS, BOUTIQUE OWNERS and ARTISANS within the community. these articles were then sent to friends of mine that taught in other countries and had their students read and write follow-up questions. what was amazing was that my students and those that asked the questions both employed english as a second language. if you are interested in checking out all the different projects i did in MYANMAR, they can be found HERE.
its one thing to have kids use quotes in a project, its another to raise the stakes and let them know that if they misquote their subject than they are effectively denying them their own voice. my kids took it very seriously because of such.
id also have them take surveys of their classmates, utilizing data. this sometimes dovetailed with concepts in their math class and we'd do some cross-curricular activities for both classes. very cool stuff.
in VENEZUELA i had a newspaper elective where students did everything from MOVIE REVIEWS, NEWSPAPER STAFF INTERVIEWS, TRAVEL ARTICLES, EDITORIALS to ARTIST/ARCHITECT PROFILES for the school newspaper EL MOSQUITO. my biggest accomplishment was getting students to buy in to participating in surveys that were the basis for all EDITORIALS. the whole enterprise reinforced literacy, reading and even NUMERACY. im still very much proud of it.
VIRTUAL ORAL PRESENTATIONS
for many parents there was a big emphasis on students being able to speak english well. i addressed this by having students use their phones to record them explaining part of a project. i had parents come in for one-on-one meetings in MYANMAR and the voice of their son or daughter speaking english clearly from a recording brought them to tears. examples of this are HERE, HERE and HERE.
below are two examples of videos my students in MYANMAR made for two different projects.
the first had them write and sing new lyrics to a popular song about something they learned that year, in the case of "ADD IT ONLINE" they sang about the final step in the WRITING PROCESS, which is PUBLISHING. they also all turn into ZOMBIES in the video and eat me alive.
the other video finds some students doing a S.T.E.A.L. (SPEECH / THOUGHTS / EMOTIONS / ACTONS / LOOKS) character analysis on the DISNEY character WALL-E.
whats awesome about doing these videos is that i could use them in other classes in the future. i was essentially stockpiling material for future students to utilize and have fun with.
as you can imagine, i miss teaching in ways i cant even verbalize. i literally could go on about online learning but i think you get the idea. unfortunately the way the education field has been going in recent years (away from project-based learning towards rote memorization), i am similarly glad to be out of the profession.
if you are interested in browsing the two website from my teaching days in VENEZUELA and MYANMAR, EL MOSQUITO is linked HERE and my class page for MYANMAR is linked HERE. enjoy!
one reason i love having a radio show is that it gives me an excuse to investigate unfamiliar music genres really take a deep dive. not being from NEW YORK and having most of my musical education take place outside the country, NYHC was something i was tangentially aware of given the influence of the scene on other bands (BEASTIE BOYS, RANCID, METALCORE groups). around the time of the airing of this episode i had finished TONY RETTMAN's book (review linked HERE) on the subject NEW YORK HARDCORE 1980-90 (BAZILLION POINTS, 2014), which i highly recommend.
full disclosure: i am an admire of the NYHC scene from afar but by no means am i an expert or a participant. if you are looking for that, i highly suggest you seek out the WORLD ENRAGE SHOW on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC and specifically the memorable EPISODE with special guest LOU of SICK OF IT ALL.
i had fun doing the show and the prep work for it. enjoy.
depending on your persuasion regarding DEER GOD RADIO, this episode is either the best one we ever did by far, or it was a complete disaster. i like to think its the former as THE SMITHS are one of my three favorite bands of all-time (the other two in my holy trinity are DEVO and JANE'S ADDICTION).
i was basically raised on the work of MORRISSEY and JOHNNY MARR by my parents and have been a fan since early childhood. TOM FERRIE of THE NOWHERE FAST SHOW and a co-founder of MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC is a certifiable super-fan of the band and upon seeing the "bat signal" of my social media promotions, swung by for the show. basically we talked the entire time about THE SMITHS, just none of it on air. so this is a playlist of THE SMITHS, the solo work of MORRISSEY and MARR, as well as collaborative projects (all MARR) with the likes of THE THE, MODEST MOUSE, BRIAN FERRY, THE CRIBS and ELECTRONIC making it arguably one of the strongest ones to date.
just no commentary. at all. just the playlist unbroken pure and simple.
maybe i should redo this show in the future? nah, no reason to ruin a perfect thing.
easily one of my favorite DEER GOD RADIO shows since its inception, this episode dedicated to 1980s HARDCORE is a topic i have further explored in book reviews for the likes of GET IN THE VAN (HENRY ROLLINS), MY DAMAGE (KEITH MORRIS) and UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN (JOHN DOE) as well as other related episodes concerning the concurrent scene in INDIE ROCK as well as '77 FIRST-WAVE PUNK ROCK, NEW YORK HARDCORE, POST-HARDCORE, and later 90s ALTERNATIVE ROCK.
it is seemingly the topic that will never die and continues to be of interest to me, largely because it was the palette cleanser that served to further distill PUNK ROCK to its absolute core essentials, of which we have been building back up around ever since. it is the foundation for any decent ROCK music that has sprung up in its wake.
so check out this show that originally aired around CHRISTMAS 2018. hasn't gotten old yet.
i always feel like when you are listening to ROCK AND ROLL of any genre or era, inevitably all roads lead you to AC/DC. their sound is stripped of anything superfluous and just hits you over the head with the grace of a sledgehammer. to me it is the very essence of BLUES-based ROCK AND ROLL. i mean what more can you say that hasn't already been said about MALCOLM YOUNG (R.I.P) and his sublime rhythm guitar playing. it feels like he invented the notion of playing in the pocket. if you only listened to their grooves it'd be worth the price of admission alone, but on top of that you have ANGUS YOUNG and his legendary crafty lead work that never seems extraneous. BON SCOTT, BRIAN JOHNSON, i mean come on.
again, straight-up ROCK AND ROLL done absolutely right. no chaser. what more do you need on a thursday?
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.
photos by nacrowe
so there i am at SUVARNABHUMI AIRPORT in BANGKOK (pictured below) just hours after leaving MYANMAR and my intense year of teaching there. im waiting for a 10 hour+ connecting flight to HAMAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (pictured above) in QATAR which will in turn connect me to an even more insane 17 hour flight stateside. as an aside, DONALD TRUMP only hours before had decided to cut off ties with the ARAB nation, despite seeming to forget that our naval fleet was stationed there. but thats another story in itself.
i just remember sitting there taking it all in: the architecture of the airport, the fact that i was lying supine on an extended couch with built-in charge port and hassle free high-speed wifi. traveling is stressful, but this moment wasnt.
what people fail to realize is how beautiful these foreign airports are. and they should be. when visitors arrive, even those just passing through en route to somewhere else, obtain an impression about a country through infrastructure.
SUVARNABHUMI for its part is an absolute gem of an airport. and im an expert on that. i've been to countless airports in over 60 countries worldwide. this airport is setup for the comfort of all tiers of travelers. same with HAMAD INTERNATIONAL in QATAR. the terminals there had geodesic architectural roofs that both evoked palm trees and ARABIC calligraphy. both airports were clean and efficient and at no point did i feel like i was in a cattle call. being in those airports felt like an experience.
now i understand that both those countries are essentially run by hereditary dictators that largely curtail freedom of speech and impose ethnic violence. that and in the case of QATAR utilize what is effectively slave labor for the construction of stadiums for the upcoming WORLD CUP. sadly that labor policy is all too common in the ARAB states as a whole. so i understand all that. absolutely. in some cases i even saw that shit firsthand (looking right at you KUWAIT). not supporting their actions whatsoever, but man i have to hand it to them, those hereditary dictators did create two incredible modern airports. as propaganda by way of architecture goes, both are top notch examples.
now im going to fast forward to JFK, the worst entry point for a supposed world-class democracy ever.
i arrive and the first thing you notice is how dilapidated and crusty the international terminal looks. its an embarrassment. you are yelled at several times to stay in line and eventual you are dumped into the customs section. there are two lines, one for US citizens and those holding visas and then the other line for everyone else. while standing in line full of a wide spectrum of humanity, all tired after a 17+ hour flight, we are all besieged by a wall of televisions all tuned to FOX NEWS where SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS was giving a speech about the then-current MUSLIM ban. she was literally talking about that room and others like. people visiting family, playing tourist. normal stuff. just seemed so incongruent with reality.
at that point you had one of the TSA agents pointing to the non-US line travelers and pointing to the customs officials at the gate. "now when you get up there, no funny business, okay?" this officer declared. "remember, no funny business, SPEAK ENGLISH."
i wanted to crawl in a hole and die i was so furious. first time back home post 2016 election. WELCOME TO TRUMPLAND.
the thing that always gets me is that from the American perspective, we feel like these people should understand what a blessing it is for them to be here. we fail to realize that AMERICA is not special. people aren't any freer here or more intelligent or hardworking than they are in EUROPE or ASIA or SOUTH AMERICA or AFRICA or CENTRAL AMERICA. the whole concept of AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM was a mirage we bought into while our infrastructure and way of life was crumbling around us due to greed and economic disparities. when i see JFK or LAGUARDIA, or to a lesser extent NEWARK, airports i'm reminded about how the AMERICAN DREAM is as failed a reality as these crumbling hollow remnants of yesteryear's optimism and ambition about the future.
but that is what i see as an AMERICAN. just think about the message we send to foreigners, you know, those people that we say we dont care about yet compare ourselves favorably to. just think of what they see. if i was them, i'd connect through CANADA if possible and just fly over us.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
everything is so depressing at the moment. seems the complete balkanization of the AMERICAN body politic is in full free fall right now. you have a president with tyrannical ambitions kicking the tires on what he can get away with in terms of utilizing the military against his own people.
i've seen this movie before. i lived through it specifically in VENEZUELA, NIGERIA and MYANMAR. when i read about unmarked federal officials with a dubious chain of command carrying out protection details against protestors i have flashbacks to seeing colectivos in MATURIN who were off-duty cops that attacked and killed protestors against NICOLAS MADURO. when i see TRUMP using military helicopters and the might of his forces to clear away protestors for the sake of a lame bible photo op, i think back to living in LAGOS in the mid 1990s and watching the police burn markets with glee. the learned hatred by some of my students in MYANMAR against MUSLIMS as manifested in them dressing up as "terrorists" for HALLOWEEN is mirrored in TRUMP and the REPUBLICANS blanket animosity and racism towards the non-white population. to this day i still wear it as a badge of honor that i didn't stay on after my first contract in MYANMAR at a job where my employer didn't have the moral fortitude to challenge the students against racism. the ROHINGYA CRISIS was taboo and never spoken about. what a wasted opportunity.
i've seen personally how injustice erodes unity and corrodes the national psyche. there is a choice being made right now by our fellow AMERICANS that wear a badge and plead an oath of fidelity to the constitution. at some point they are going to have make a decision on who they serve: the people or this dictator. if they collectively choose poorly we are all fucked.
but that isn't why i'm writing this. i do have an example of an individual who during a time of civil unrest made a selfless, patriotic decision and great personal expense on behalf of his fellow compatriots. and ironically this example is set in the BALKANS, specifically ALBANIA.
i've made mention before about my experience as a PEACE CORPS volunteer in ALBANIA and my nationwide literacy project that resulted in me presenting a paper i co-wrote at CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY. i have also mentioned before how during my initial stay at my original placement site in the border town of KUKES (10 miles from the KOSOVAN border) resulted in me getting assaulted and ultimately relocated to another city.
what i haven't spoken about before is my former landlord in KUKES, whom i wont identify by name out of respect. in 1997 the ALBANIAN economy, already the second-poorest in EUROPE, took a sharp nose dive after the government lost a reported $1.2 billion due to involvement in a pyramid scheme. the result was countrywide civil unrest. some have described it as a civil war.
in terms of the police, many abandoned their post. but not my former landlord. he went down to the station and personally defended their stockpile of weapons from would-be looters. his feeling was that the last thing that this powder-keg of a situation needed was more firearms and ammunition. the looters came and turned his own gun against him.
i've seen his through-and-through scars. he showed them to me the night of my assault, telling me that i was a PURO KUKESIAN. that i couldn't leave. my assumption is that everything worthwhile in his community comes at a price and my efforts to educate was worth that price. i still hold him in the highest esteem for his service to his community at their hour of need. a true hero and patriot.
when i think now of our current crisis where the police-citizen relationship is coming apart at the seams, my hope is that our compatriots on the other side of the blue line will display some solidarity and empathy with those who have suffered. they are there in their current position to serve and protect the citizens, not the state.
hopefully they realize such en masse before we find ourselves in a new TRUMPIAN hell-scape we can't return from.
the often maligned but irresistible sub-genre of POP PUNK is a sound that dates back to the very roots of PUNK ROCK with THE RAMONES and THE BUZZCOCKS back in the 1970s. check out HERE as we celebrate guilt-free the groups that have carried on the torch the last few decades mixing classic song structures and melody with the energy, excitement and aggression of classic PUNK ROCK.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.
given that the next DEER GOD RADIO show on SUNDAY MAY 24TH at 8PM EST on MAKERARKRADIO.NYC will be celebrating the BRITISH INVASION, it seemed as good a time as ever to revisit a show six months back that was dedicated to the musical and cultural legacy of THE BEATLES.
really what can be added that hasn't already been said about them?
all i can come up with is that whenever i feel jaded about art or music, like everything has already been done before (and better!), i just go back and revisit the music of the FAB FOUR and i am taken aback anew by how fresh it still sounds more than half a century later. its still startling. any era of the band. still hard to believe they were only together 8 years.
reading books, watching documentaries, listening to podcasts over the years it seems i can never learn too much about the group. their personal failures, political naivety and even trend jumping only adds to their mystique since (as i've said before) they did everything better than everyone else.
anyway, enough of all that. enjoy THE BEATLES.
ive been on a tear these past few months consuming several books by or about people involved in the PUNK ROCK explosion of the late 1970s including STEVE JONES, RICHARD HELL, VIV ALBERTINE, JOHNNY ROTTEN, DEBORAH HARRY, and JOE STRUMMER.
so with the topic still very much on my mind i wanted to revisit a show from 6 months ago that delved into the topic of where PUNK ROCK originated and how it influenced culture on both sides of the ATLANTIC. even now some 40+ years later with HIP HOP long taken over as the vehicle for the voice of the youth, classic PUNK ROCK is still very much relevant and has been a touchstone for every youth movement since. that is something that cannot be said about the mod, teddy boy, skinhead and GLAM ROCK cultures that preceded it.
a subject that is always fascinating, please check out our show of first (and some second) wave PUNK ROCK below.
roughly a year ago we did a show focused on TRIP HOP, which personally is one of my favorite things ever. its rooted in several groups that came out of BRISTOL in the UK who took american HIP HOP BOOM-BAP rhythms and infused it with the sounds, textures and production of the local immigrant community, which included artists everywhere from the CARIBBEAN and WEST AFRICA to the INDIAN subcontinent and beyond.
i discovered groups like MASSIVE ATTACK and PORTISHEAD (as well as DEVO) at the same time when i was in my junior year of high school and they decidedly expanded my perspective on music. at that point my sonic palette was limited to primarily guitar-based stuff, but afterwards really all bets were off. the fact that TRIP HOP had groove yet had this melancholic, forlorn vibe was the perfect soundtrack to being a disaffected teenager running around the morally bankrupt wasteland that was and still is KUWAIT.
listening to these bands, no matter my age, brings me straight back there. i'm happy i found it though at that time, its funny how music has that power to get us through challenging times while we are still in them.
i don't know how much explaining we did during this show since we had a guest that we spoke to off-mic but honestly this is one of the stronger playlists in the history of the show. so by all means enjoy it. let it transport you.
photos by nacrowe
bosnia & herzegovinaive live in 8 countries abroad and visited (for at least three days) over 60 countries worldwide. ive been assaulted (ALBANIA), robbed (GREECE), threatened at gunpoint (NIGERIA) and even roofied (CYPRUS) but there are only two countries i hold a grudge against: KUWAIT and SERBIA. i'll leave KUWAIT for another future entry.
maybe it was because i had just visited SARAJVEO or spent 6 months in an ALBANIAN border town with KOSOVO or maybe it was just the fact that the people there were assholes, but i really detested BELGRADE.
its the only place i can think of where i was physically dominated by a priest, imam, monk, etc.. i visited SAINT MICHAEL THE ARCANGEL CATHEDRAL which has ties to the beginnings of SERBIAN identity and statehood and is one of the most important religious buildings in the country (not the CHURCH OF SAINT SAVA pictured above). at midday on a weekday there were no discernable signs saying not to enter. just for context, its their country and i respect their customs. i am not looking for confrontation. when i walked inside (hat off) i looked around quietly and there was literally this robed goon b-lining straight at me full bore and physically pushed me out on the street while screaming at me. it was crazy. again for context i have entered numerous orthodox churchs of varying importance in UKRAINE, GREECE, MACEDONIA, and even RUSSIA with no incident. literally pushed me on the street. no sign, no nothing. you are unwelcome. after that it didnt take much imagination to see why those assholes sanctioned the actions of SLOBIDAN MILOSEVIC back in the 90s. walking in the path of JESUS they very much are.
anyway, i visited BOSNIA partly because in terms of the history of ALBANIA where i was stationed as a PEACE CORPS volunteer, all roads led to BELGRADE in terms of their recent history. BELGRADE pre-SERBIAN independence was just the headquarters of a regional territory under the rule of OTTOMAN TURKS for a few hundred years. it later became the capital of YUGOSLAVIA and thereafter SERBIA. even the ALBANIAN national hero SKENDERBEG's mother was SERBIAN, although they don't like discussing that in polite company.
i am glad that i went solely because i was able to visit JOSIP BROZ TITO's tomb, himself a dictator that had a longstanding non-agression pact with his ALBANIA counterpart ENVER HOXHA. depending on where you are in ALBANIA, the cultural and economic influence of YUGOSLAVIA is profound and constantly referenced by locals. this is something i witness firsthand doing interview in ALBANIA border cities like POGRADEC, HAS, PESHKOPI, KUKES, GOLAJ, BAJRAM CURRI and their nearby analogues in OHRID (MACEDONIA), DEBAR (MACEDONIA), GJAKOVA (KOSOVO) and PRIZREN (KOSOVO). some even thought TITO was a good man. i dont. but i've visited his tomb just like i have many other authoritarian leaders over the years: including HUGO CHAVEZ (VENEZUELA), FRANCISCO FRANCO (SPAIN), HO CHI MINH (VIETNAM), VLADIMIR LENIN (RUSSIA) and MAO ZEDONG (CHINA). i just believe in confronting the past and taking in the spectacle. the fact that these graves (exception being HOXHA) are ostentatious and tacky makes total sense.
lest you think i support those figures, i've made actual pilgrimages to the graves/cremation sites of other more palatable political figures like SALVADOR ALLENDE (CHILE), MAHATMA GANDHI (INDIA), THICH QUANG DUC (VIETNAM), SIMON BOLIVAR (COLOMBIA), YITZHAK RABIN (ISRAEL), JFK (VIRGINIA) and cultural figures like PABLO NERUDA (CHILE), OSCAR WILDE (FRANCE), AKIRA KUROSAWA (JAPAN), NIKOLA TESLA (SERBIA) LOUIS ARMSTRONG (NYC), JOEY RAMONE (NEW JERSEY), BUDDY HOLLY-CRASH SITE (IOWA) and ELVIS PRESLEY (TENNESSEE) among others.
so dont get it twisted.
whats crazy is that SERBIA was the second country i visited on what was planned to be a two country trip (the other being BOSNIA), but i hated it so much that i immediately took the next train out of town after two days. what got me was the arrogance and outright freakish NATIONALISM of the people i ran into, how they saw themselves as superior to their neighbors. it was like running into a mindless TRUMP supporter except on their turf. as an AMERICAN abroad you sometimes get into situations where people cant believe that you would belittle yourself to live or travel in other countries. that was how SERBIANS felt about BOSNIA and ALBANIA and ive seen that in other situations as well, namely THAILAND with MYANMAR and (interestingly) MYANMAR with BANGLADESH and COUNTLESS EUROPEANS and AMERICANS with NIGERIA. its an annoying cultural blindspot that is aggravating.
case in point i heard the exact same misogynist ethnic jokes about BOSNIAN women being ugly in SERBIA that i did in CROATIA. so go figure. both those countries had people walking around with swastika tattoos and seemed sure of their status as EUROPEAN, whatever that meant. if anything, the BOSNIAN women i saw were impossibly gorgeous and the SERBS and CROATS repeatedly came off insecure and just woefully ignorant and backwards. but maybe i encountered a bad batch.
at one point i took a small guided tour of BELGRADE and the guide pointed at a government building and looked square at me and said forcefully that my country blew it up in 1999. i looked right back at him and said "yes we did." truth is at that point i lived in KUKES in ALBANIA for 6 months and they famously took in 450,000 KOSOVAN refugees from that conflict. its a remarkable story that i lived with and would later research, but at no point did i feel sorry about this building being blown up to halt the efforts of MILOSEVIC in killing muslims and ethnic ALBANIANS in mass. actually kind of proud i snapped back at that poor tour guide.
anyway, i read that NOVI SAD was supposed to be gorgeous but really i had enough. next day i went to the train station and missed an overnight train to BUDAPEST by 10 minutes. next train was to ZAGREB in CROATIA. off i went. it wasn't much better but i am certainly glad i got to see MOSTAR. again, another entry down the line.
like i said, there are times you walk right into the fault lines of a country, especially how they feel about their neighbors. more than not people are empathetic to their neighbors. i saw this with COLOMBIA with regards to VENEZUELA. despite the fact that VENEZUELANS during their recent economic boom treated COLOMBIANS appallingly, treating them almost as serfs. talking to COLOMBIANS during my travels they would almost certainly get teary-eyed when i mentioned i lived in VENEZUELA. they look at them as extended family which was always touching. and this is the norm by and large i found abroad.
but not SERBIA and not KUWAIT. and for that they are the only two countries i wouldn't revisit if you paid me.
this week we take a look back at a show i did less than a year ago on one of my favorite bands of the 1970s, THE STRANGLERS. considered by some to be an influential POST-PUNK band on par with WIRE, JOY DIVISION, THE FALL or GANG OF FOUR, they were contemporaries of the PUNK movement (being slightly older) and created a slew of classic singles. their bass sound served as the basis for JOY DIVISION/NEW ORDER bassist PETER HOOK (since he stole their HIWATT amp head) and countless BRITPOP bands thereafter (most notably ELASTICA). not only that, their depraved lyrics got them banned by the BBC for sexual deviancy.
my parents often say that my first concert was a STRANGLERS concert in SPAIN as it happened just days before i was born, so maybe this is all predetermined. i dont know.
i just want to spread the gospel according to HUGH CORNWELL and proselytize to the masses about this often overlooked, defiantly BRITISH band.
with the pandemic now in full swing in NEW JERSEY, i just wanted to use my show celebrating the musical legacy of my adopted home state to help drive funds towards the NEW JERSEY PANDEMIC RELIEF FUND.
the day after i constructed this entry it was announced that the JERSEY 4 JERSEY television benefit fundraiser with performances by BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, BON JOVI, HALSEY and TONY BENNETT among others would be raising funds for the same. so please consider a donation.
you really get a sense of the diversity of talent that emanates from the sorely maligned and often overlooked GARDEN STATE by taking a look at this list i created. i'd put our talent up there with anyone else (looking at you NEW YORK and CALIFORNIA)
here is a list by town/city:
MARK STEIN (VANILLA FUDGE)
TOM VERLAINE (TELEVISION)
KAREN O (THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS)
THE SUGARHILL GANG
EZRA KOENIG (VAMPIRE WEEKEND)
KOOL & THE GANG
DEBBIE HARRY (BLONDIE)
YO LA TENGO
ZAKK WYLDE (BLACK LABEL SOCIETY / OZZY OSBOURNE)
ADAM SCHLESINGER (FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE)
THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN
MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE
FRANKIE VALLI & THE FOUR SEASONS
THE BOUNCING SOULS
NAUGHTY BY NATURE
DONALD FAGEN (STEELY DAN)
POINT PLEASANT BEACH
DEAN DELEO (STONE TEMPLE PILOTS)
ROBERT DELEO (STONE TEMPLE PILOTS)
TREY ANASTASIO (PHISH)
SAVES THE DAY
ARMOR FOR SLEEP
THE JONAS BROTHERS
parody by nacrowe
a little less than a year ago i did a radio show (linked HERE) on the global cultural impact of the legendary NIGERIAN AFROBEAT composer/musician FELA KUTI, easily one of the most consequential artists i have come across during my lifetime. i have written and spoke at length about my middle school years living in NIGERIA in the mid 90s on this blog, even wrote a review (linked HERE) of a recently published english translation of a french book consisting of interviews with him and his many wives.
to sum up his legacy, he was a singular artist that sought to bolster AFRICAN identity in a post-colonialist context where native customs were beginning to self-define as primitive and anti-modern. his music and art pierced that bullshit right between the eyes and gave his people a dignity and cultural awareness that has only flourished since his passing. you can hear such now in his sons FEMI and SEUN and the work of LAGBAJA and his peers like TONY ALLEN (formerly of his backing band the EGYPT 80) and KING SUNNY ADE among many many others.
for years i have shared his music with friends and students in other places i lived and taught including JAPAN, VENEZUELA, ALBANIA and MYANMAR. especially in countries struggling to find their own voice in a world that requires you to act, speak and look a certain way (usually in a euro-centric mold), his example was my way of letting my students know that you could be yourself and embrace your local community, whether or not such is valued by the broader global marketplace of ideas and culture.
they'll come around. they did with FELA.
photo by veronica serrano
its crazy seeing all the shortages of things like toilet paper and basic food stuffs happen stateside these days, basically because i've experienced it all before.
this is the kind of thing i saw happen in the mid 90s during the isolated military regime of SANI ABACHA in NIGERIA and in VENEZUELA shortly after the death of HUGO CHAVEZ when NICOLAS MADURO took over in 2013. in both cases once you saw a desired product on a shelf you knew it was only a matter of time (usually within hours) that such would be gone to return who knows when.
in NIGERIA the company my father worked for got around this with large annual shipments (one per family) that were sent via international container ships that would take months at a time. you'd fill these things up by weight stateside during the summer and then see them in AFRICA in late autumn. it was crazy because you'd purchase a year's worth of any particular item (candy, napkins, detergent, etc). but it worked and meant you weren't relying on the local market for basic necessities, which was a good thing given the corruption of the military dictatorship of the time.
recent photo by nacrowe somewhere in new jersey
VENEZUELA was a different experience altogether in that i entered the country during a time of immense upheaval and change. CHAVEZ during his reign had nationalized various industries and kicked out foreign investment in things like oil and manufacturing. the UNITED STATES in particular used to manufacture napkins, paper towels and toilet paper in the country and after CHAVEZ' decision they merely relocated the factories to COLOMBIA (which in turn assisted in stabilizing their economy). i taught for two years there and over that time their currency spiraled out of control. the inflation was the highest in the world. since 2016 their currency has inflated 53,798,500%.
so what does that mean in human terms? it means people don't save, they spend because every day you wait the money has less value. prices are always climbing and basic common necessities like bread, food stuffs and household paper products are out of range for most to buy. during the end of my time there i went to COLOMBIA for a job conference. during my time in BOGOTA i brought two bodybags with me and filled them with deodorant, toilet paper and HARINA PAN (a cornmeal used in arepas, empanadas, etc). when flying back in VENEZUELA the officials there asked me point blank if i had any of the items on a checklist in my possession (the first three items being DEODORANT, TOILET PAPER and HARINA PAN). they weren't looking for drugs or weapons. i told them i didn't have any of those and they didnt check.
i brought those back to the school i worked at and over a few days passed them all out equally to the workers at my school. these included the gardeners, custodians, clerks, guards, drivers, etc. essentially i was handing them commodities that would appreciate with time and be worth more than their paycheck.
think about that. toilet paper, deodorant and cornmeal. now i don't think that the UNITED STATES will ever get to this level, but what i did learn in these situations is the resilience and dignity of NIGERIANS and VENEZUELANS i met. they really saw their individual needs in the context of their families and greater networks of friends. these desperate situations showcased what a true community was all about. i did what i could in VENEZUELA to the people i was around, but things have gotten much much worse since then and the rise of TRUMP has only made things worse.
not a day goes by i don't think of VENEZUELA. my goal is to return one day. NIGERIA i hear from friends has gotten much better as the government has succeeded in changing over its power a few times in fair elections, bringing in foreign investment. im glad that is the case.
given his recent health issues and the very real likelihood that his touring days are now in the rearview mirror, i would like to revisit an early radio show i did back in JULY 2018 dedicated to the contributions of OZZY OSBOURNE, both as a solo artist and as a member of the genre-defining juggernaut that was BLACK SABBATH.
this man has brought so much joy to me and a lot of other people to such an extent that its hard to even put into words. just the butterfly effect brought about by this one musician is staggering. his influence on modern music cannot be overstated.
i have future playlists already created that highlight the myriad of sub-genres of METAL, but perhaps the show i am most looking forward to is one dedicated to the participating bands on the now-discontinued OZZFEST traveling music festival he spearheaded in the late 1990s and early 2000s. great memories from my formative years there.
much love OZZY. thank you so much.
and if you have any interest in the fight against PARKINSONS, here is a link for ways you can get involved with the AMERICAN PARKINSONS DISEASE ASSOCIATION.
portrait photos by ben
way back in the fall of 2009 i took a teaching job in kuwait. at that point i was newly graduated from COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY and armed with an education masters degree and a few recommendations from BROOKLYN TECH. unfortunately there was a hiring freeze due to the recession which meant finding work was next to impossible. so i looked abroad and ended up teaching at my former high school.
i lasted all but three months. it was my worst job to date. but i will save that story for another time. two months into my stay the emir at the time decided with virtually no notice that the whole country was getting an extended weekend off, so i found myself with something like a 6 day window to do something. i ended up quickly getting tickets to JORDAN.
my neighbor and fellow teaching peer came with me which was a good thing, as he was wayyyyy into JESUS. normally that would be a disaster, but given all the old testament stuff that happened in JORDAN regarding MOSES, KING HEROD, SALOME, JOHN THE BAPTIST, etc. it was nice to have someone versed on the subject. lord knows i wasnt since i never paid attention in catholic school.
video by nacrowe
when we got there we ended up taking an illegal taxi around the country, which in retrospect was beyond stupid. but it worked. going to the DEAD SEA, PETRA and AQABA, we went through numerous military checkpoints and told the officers that the driver was our cousin. i still do not know how i wasn't arrested.
im glad i took the trip because years later i went to ISRAEL and basically saw the other major biblical sights on the other side of the DEAD SEA. my interest as an english teacher at the time was just to experience the history of it all. experiencing the narrative by visiting places like MACHAERUS (historical site of the beheading of JOHN THE BAPTIST and SALOME's dance of the seven veils ) and MOUNT NEBO (where MOSES completed his prophecy of seeing ISRAEL and then dying on the spot). whether or not i believe any of it (i don't) is beside the point. irregardless of the religious significance, i was always attentive and interested on a narrative level. trips like these i regularly used as fodder for my classroom when applicable.
BEDOUIN photo by nacrowe
my favorite memory of this trip was when we randomly met up with two married couples (one AMERICAN, the other CANADIAN) from our school in PETRA and followed them to AQABA in the south by ISRAEL, EGYPT and SAUDI ARABIA. i still have a scar on my hand from bumping into fire coral while snorkeling down there. on the way back to AMMAN (the capitol) the AMERICAN husband was speeding and making everyone carsick, namely the CANADIAN wife. at one point he didn't see a speed bump and everyone in the back of the van shot up in the air. unfortunately for her, the CANADIAN wife hit her head. at that point the CANADIAN couple were politely asking the AMERICAN husband driving to stop so she could vomit. he wouldn't listen and kept speeding because, well, i still have no idea. it was all ego basically.
PETRA photos by nacrowe
after watching the CANADIAN couple futilely ask repeatedly i yelled out "HEY FUCKO, PULL OVER!" which he did immediately. the CANADIANS were impressed. after she threw up outside and came back on board i tried to explain to them that AMERICANS are not much for subtlety, we are a boorish people that need to be hit over the head with the obvious.
when i quit my job a month later this couple gave me a CANADIAN flag to put on my backpack in transit so that people wouldnt think i was AMERICAN in the airports. easily one of the nicest compliments i've ever been given overseas.