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NEWSLETTER

Updated:  December 1, 2005

Congrats to all the winners of the 2005 CUMAs - see tons of photos in my PHOTO GALLERY.  What an incredibly long night (had to say it!).  Russell Peters saved the night of delays and kudos to him for making us laugh uncontrollably throughout! 

In homage to my heritage, below are the details for an excellent Christmas concert with
The Salvation Army next Saturday evening.  When Brothers Speak was another amazing success - see photos in my PHOTO GALLERY.  

Need a special gift?  Why don't you try a custom-made goodie
basket by Andrea (see below for details).

A very special offer this week.  Universal Music Canada offers the first five people to respond with the right
TITLE a FREE Stevie Wonder CD - this CD is absolutely incredible.  What a joy to hear Stevie again ... smooth as silk!  Enter HERE!

Congrats also go to the
Edmonton Eskimos in their overtime win over Montreal for the Grey Cup.  And congrats also to Damon Allen for winning the CFL's most- outstanding-player award.

Check out all categories - tons of Canadian content in MUSIC NEWS, FILM NEWS, TV NEWS, THEATRE NEWS, and OTHER NEWS!  Have a read and a scroll!  This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members.  Want your events listed by date?  Check out EVENTSWant to be removed from the distribution, click REMOVE.

 

 

::HOT EVENTS::

 

 

Christmas with The Salvation Army – December 10, 2005

Source:  www.salvationarmy.ca

The music of brass, organ, and choir will be brought together once again to celebrate the season in this annual gala at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall. This year, the talents of singer/actor Carol Jaudes, New York, and organist Giles Bryant, Toronto, will add to the magnificent sounds of the Canadian Staff Band and 400-voice Festival Chorus. In addition, the audience will be invited to join in the familiar carols and warm-hearted songs of the season.

The meeting of human need is a visible part of The Salvation Army’s mission to our community. And Christmastime is quite simply the best opportunity to bring this mission before the public who so generously support the Army's work. Kettles swinging in the shopping malls, carols sung in the open air, musicians bundled under lampposts — these are the familiar images of Christmas with The Salvation Army. All this and more will be shared in abundance on December 10th at Roy Thomson Hall.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10
CHRISTMAS WITH THE SALVATION ARMY

Roy Thompson Hall
60 Simcoe Street
7:30 pm
Tickets range $15, $20, $25 and are available at:

1. Roy Thomson Box office,
2. Ticket Master, (416) 870-8000, www.ticketmaster.ca
3. The Salvation Army, Major George Patterson at (647) 233-6036 or (416) 321-2654 ext. 230 or email: george_patterson@can.salvationarmy.org

 

 

::HOT GIFT IDEA::

 

 

Baskets By Andrea Presents Their 2005 Collection

Want an impressive solution to corporate or personal gift giving?  Choose from Andrea’s wide selection of custom-themed baskets.  Each year we are pleased to prepare custom made gifts for you, our special clients and friends, using the finest containers and quality products.  We take special care in ensuring that your gift is appreciated and moreover, addresses any special dietary needs or allergic concerns. In addition to our regular favourites, "Christmas Delights" and "Tropical Delights" we have a collection of CD's by the renowned concert pianist, Linda Gentille.  We have prepared a number of basket themes around her CD's, e.g. "Movie Night" featuring hits from the movies with your favourite munchies! Visit www.gentille.com.

Traditional Favourites and Christmas Delights


An assortment of gourmet delights for the Holiday Season and after. 
Price range: $60 - $100.

Toasting the Season!

Six inch silver tray with two wine glasses or champagne flutes with wine/champagne, gourmet coffee and truffles.
Price based on choice of wine or champagne.

The Spa

Various products guaranteed to provide a soothing and pleasurable bath experience.
Price starts at $45 upwards.

Tropical Delights

Capture the flavours of the Caribbean. Tropical spices, fruit juices, rum, exotic jams like guava and pineapple, and savoury plantain chips!
Price starts at $50. Available without rum.

For book lovers, baskets are available at Burke's Bookstore, 873 St. Clair Avenue West Telephone: 416-656-5366.

To ensure Christmas delivery, no orders accepted after December 16. Order your custom baskets today by calling Andrea at. 416-496-8413or faxing your order to 416-496-7915 or email: andrea@on.aibn.com

Baskets by Andrea is a subsidiary of Andrea Delvaillé & Associates, specializing in advertising, marketing, public relations and special promotions. 

Contact Andrea at:  416-496-8413; email: andrea@on.aibn.com

 

 

::MUSIC NEWS::

 

 

k-os And Divine Brown The Big Winners At The 7th Annual CUMAS - SUN TV to Broadcast Awards December 21st

(Nov. 29, 2005) - Big winners at this year’s Canadian Urban Music Awards (CUMAs) were k-os, who walked away with Songwriter of the Year and Fan’s Choice Award, and Divine Brown, who took home awards for R&B Recording and New Artist of the Year.  Held in a specially-designed  intimate theatre-style setting at the Kool Haus with a sold out crowd and loads  of stars on hand, the 7th Annual Canadian Urban Music Awards recognized  Canada’ s very best in urban music.  Throughout the jam-packed evening, awards show host Russell Peters, kept the crowd in stitches.

"The Canadian Urban Music Awards are a platform to celebrate Canada’s urban music industry," said UMAC Executive Director Aisha Wickham. "This amazing showcase of talent that we've assembled this week has provided an opportunity for us all to come together and recognize the hard work that has enabled us to shine a light on the best that this country has to offer to us as well as the world!"

Fito Blanko, winner of the Global Rhythms Recording of the Year at last night’s gala awards dinner, kicked off the night with the first performance. Canadian Hip Hop legend Maestro (with surprise guest, Gowan) brought the house down with a montage of his hits from the 80s to today. Other performances included Sonia Collymore performing her nominated reggae recording, “No Cash Flow” and 5-time nominee Jully Black (winner of the Dance/Electronic Recording of the Year award for the Tricky Moreira  remix of her hit song, “Sweat of Your Brow”), who raised the roof with a soul-stirring performance backed by a 20-person choir.

Recording Star Ginuwine and WWE Superstar Trish Stratus presented Divine Brown with R&B Recording of the Year for her smash hit single “Old  Skool Love”. Reggae Artist of the Year was handed out to Blessed for “Reggae  Time” , and Saukrates took home the award for Producer of the Year. Ranee Lee  & Oliver Jones were awarded the Jazz Recording of the Year CUMA for their collaboration, “Just You, Just Me”.

Canadian Idol judge and urban music industry icon Farley Flex was  honoured with the Special Achievement Award during the show, which was taped for future broadcast on SUN TV. Flex also won the Media Personality of the  Year award at last night’s gala dinner.  Archie Alleyne was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his illustrious career as a jazz drummer. Over the past 56 years, Alleyne  has traveled the world and played with countless jazz greats such as Billie Holiday, Nancy Wilson, Mel Tormé, Joe Sealy, Liberty Silver and many  more.

CL Smooth, Obie Trice and Stat Quo took the stage to give the Hip-Hop Recording of the Year to K’naan for his song “Strugglin’”.  k-os and Saukrates presented Divine Brown with her second win of the evening for  New Artist of the Year, while Mr. X took home the award for Music Video of  the Year for directing Keshia Chanté’s video for “Does He Love Me” (his  second consecutive year winning in this category).  Divine Brown performed  “Twist My Hair” (with hip-hop artist Jelleestone) and “Old Skool Love” before  the final award of the evening, Fan’s Choice Award, was given to k-os by  FLOW 93.5 morning show hosts Jemeni, Mark Strong and a lucky contest winner. Kardinal Offishall closed out the evening’s celebration with a  performance that kept the crowd cheering for more.

This year’s event is generously supported by SUN TV, FLOW 93.5  (Toronto), FACTOR (through the Canada Music Fund), The Bounce 91.7 (Edmonton),  Radio Starmaker Fund, Aim to Achieve Foundation, How Can I Be Down?,  Gillette, Remy Martin, Sony BMG, Warner Urban, HMV, SOCAN Foundation, Club  Paradise and The Songwriters Association of Canada.

About UMAC and the Canadian Urban Music Awards:

Established in 1996, the Urban Music Association of Canada (UMAC) is a not-for-profit, member-driven organization dedicated to building the domestic and international profile of Canadian urban music. UMAC offers workshops, seminars and artist showcases to its members and  stakeholders, in addition to our televised signature event, the Canadian Urban Music  Awards (CUMAs).  The CUMAs (formerly Urban X-Posure Awards) is a celebration of the best  in Canada’s urban music industry. The Canadian Urban Music Awards show was taped for broadcast on SUN TV on Wednesday, December 21 at 9:00 pm.

And The Winners Are:

R&B Recording of the Year: Divine Brown - “Old Skool Love”

Hip Hop Recording of the Year: K’naan - “Strugglin”

Reggae Recording of the Year: Blessed - “Reggae Time”

Jazz Recording of the Year: Ranee Lee & Oliver Jones - “Just You, Just Me”

New Artist of the Year: Divine Brown

Producer of the Year: Saukrates

Music Video of the Year: "Does He Love Me" (Keshia Chanté) – Directed by Mr. X

Special Achievement Award Recipient: Farley Flex

Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient: Archie Alleyne

Fan’s Choice Award: k-os

Gospel Recording of the Year: Patricia Shirley - “Real Love”

Dance/Electronic Recording of the Year: Jully Black - “Sweat Of Your Brow”
(Tricky Moreira Remix)

Global Rhythms Recording of the Year: Fito Blanko - “Me Voy A Marchar”

Soca Recording of the Year: King Cosmos - “Island Girl”

Francophone Recording of the Year: Malik Shaheed feat. Impossible & Radical - “Qui Run Tings?”

Spoken Word Recording of the Year: Dwayne Morgan - “Mother I Understand”

Songwriter of the Year: k-os

DJ/DJ Crew of the Year: DJ Starting from Scratch

Media Personality of the Year: Farley Flex (Canadian Idol)

Publication of the Year: Pound

Website of the Year: Hiphopcanada.com

Concert Promoter/Booking Agent of the Year: Substance Group (Toronto)

Manager/Management Company of the Year: Chris Smith (Chris Smith Management)

Record Label of the Year: Universal Music

Community Service Award: UrbanAIDS (Towa Beer)
 

K-os, Black Score Honours at Urban Music Awards

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Mark Miller


(Nov. 30, 2005) Toronto --
k-os and Jully Black were among the winners Monday night as the two-day Canadian Urban Music Awards gala kicked off. Kevin Brereton, aka K-os, won best-songwriter honours. The rapper was up for four other awards last night, including best hip-hop recording and fans' choice. Black and Tricky Moreira's Sweat of Your Brow was named dance/electronic recording of the year. Fifteen of the 25 awards were announced Monday. The remaining 10 were handed out last night at a public ceremony and concert bash set to air Dec. 21 on Sun TV. CP

 

Stop Giving Hip Hop A Bad Rap

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ben Rayner


(Nov. 24, 2005) It seems rather self-evident, but gun violence was thriving in Toronto long before Get Rich or Die Tryin' opened in theatres and 50 Cent threatened to visit.  This is the way crusades like the one launched this week by Liberal MP Dan McTeague to prevent the platinum-plated gangsta rapper from entering Canada next month usually work, though. They don't bother putting in the time to seek out real-world solutions to the complex social and fiscal predicaments that lead to gun violence; they settle for Band-Aid grandstanding that gives the impression of "doing something" for communities largely thrust into these situations by generations of government neglect in the first place, and that wins headlines for a junior foreign minister with an eye on re-election.  Yes, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's music and recent, semi-autobiographical screen turn in Get Rich glorify gun violence and the thug lifestyle, and the CD artwork for 50's last album, The Massacre, contains several glamorous photo spreads that fetishize firearm possession more than any Smith & Wesson catalogue. But there are Dixie Chicks tunes about gunning down cheatin' husbands and truckloads of Schwarzenegger and Seagal DVDs swarming with gunplay out there that McTeague is not trying to stop at the border. CNN and Fox News regularly coo breathlessly over new American military hardware being deployed to more efficiently slaughter people in Iraq and he's not petitioning the CRTC to block their signals.  Hip hop, which Chuck D of Public Enemy once famously likened to "black people's CNN," has the distinction, however, of an Afro-American heritage completely alien to white Canadian politicians and censorship activists who will never accept the argument that artists like infamous multiple-shooting victim 50 Cent, or Snoop Dogg — both of whom spent time in gangs and in court back in the day — are merely reflecting the social environment from whence they came.

At a more simplistic level, hip hop, like former favourite boogeyman heavy metal, is also cursed with being a type of music that non-fans really don't get. It's much easier to persecute an art form you don't understand. You don't see, for instance, frequent rap foe Valerie Smith — who tried to ban Eminem from entering Canada in 2000 and recently filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission against HMV for selling "hate rap" — applying her arguments about misogyny in music to Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe" or the aforementioned Chicks song, "Earl Had to Die." Pop is "real" music.  Immigration Minister Joe Volpe, asked this week by McTeague to bar 50 Cent from Canada because of his criminal record, declined to comment specifically yesterday. But some of McTeague's fellow politicians at least displayed cooler heads in the face of 50 Cent's tour, which reaches Toronto's Ricoh Coliseum on Dec. 20.  Premier Dalton McGuinty acknowledged that the roots of Toronto's gun problem were "much more complex" than the popularity of thugged-out rap tunes, observing that he "wouldn't want to put too much stock" in the influence hip-hop had over its audience.  Mayor David Miller, meanwhile, offered: "I've always seen music as an expression of what's happening in communities. I think the sad thing is the expression of what's happening in communities, in particular some neighbourhoods in Toronto. And we don't want to see our have-not neighbourhoods become places where gun crimes are routine, where those kind of values are expressed in the music of the people."  What's happening in Toronto's have-not neighbourhoods should, in fact, be the strongest argument against further gun violence.  The challenge frequently raised against gangsta rap is that it glorifies violence without depicting the consequences. Here, though, we've seen the very demonstrable consequences of gun violence on the nightly news all year long — 48 bodies, wounded children, families destroyed — and it shows no sign of stopping.  With or without 50 Cent.

 

Hip-Hop Mayor Of T.Dot

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Staff Reporter

(Nov. 28, 2005 The capacity crowd inside the Mod Club is lapping up the frenzy onstage. Surrounded by members of his Black Jays collective, rapper Kardinal Offishall is firing tracks from his new album, Fire and Glory. Ostensibly, the audience is hearing these songs for the first time, but they chant along and salute Offishall with raised arms as if they were erstwhile hits.  That's due partly to the artist's anthemic mélange of hip hop and reggae, but mostly to his delivery: vigorous call and response with stagemates Ro Dolla, Riley, Solitiar and Lindo P.  A few days later, Offishall's alter ego, twentysomething Jason Harrow, now low-key and minus the trademark specs, digs into coconut shrimp at his favourite west-end bistro.  "My favourite thing is to just play poker in the backyard and chill," he said. "I save all that rah-rah for the fans. After they work all day, I want them to know they can come to my show and act the fool and have fun."  Maestro is the dean and K-OS has the critical acclaim, but Offishall is Canada's most popular hip-hop export, thanks to collaborations with an international array of artists such as Sean Paul(Jamaica), Method Man and Busta Rhymes (U.S.), and Estelle(U.K.).  And he's a dedicated T.Dot booster, distilling the city's cultural milieu in his rhymes, most notably with 2000's "Bakardi Slang" which detailed the urban Torontospeak for neophytes (When you say "The club is over" Yo we say "The jam done").

"If you go to New York or L.A. and talk about hip hop, he's the one name that everybody knows," says Toronto music journalist Dalton Higgins.  "And here, he can pretty much go into any neighbourhood and have that street respect. He's like the hip-hop mayor."  It's been a long time coming for the York University mass communications grad, who is up for his sixth Canadian Urban Music Award tomorrow.  Though he's been on the scene since the mid-'90s,
Fire and Glory is Offishall's first album of new material.  In 2001, MCA released Firestarter Volume 1: Quest for Fire comprised primarily of his independent singles, including hits "Maxine" and "Ol' Time Killing." But when the label folded in 2003, so did his already recorded, much-anticipated follow-up.  But like his song "Husslin," Offishall stayed busy: acting in Love Sex & Eating the Bones and My Baby's Daddy; appearing on the Fast and the Furious 2 soundtrack, and doing ads for Rogers and Honda Civic.

"You can't live in Canada and be an artist just in Canada, and expect that to be all you do if you do black music," he explained. "You don't know how many times I'd be scrambling with overdue bills, then a royalty cheque would arrive from the Method Man (recording) or some random soundtrack in New Zealand."  With
Fire and Glory released on his Black Jays imprint, in a co-venture deal with Virgin, Offishall is shopping for a U.S. label and opening for rap superstar 50 Cent's seven-date Canadian tour. The concerts have become controversial since Liberal MP Dan McTeague asked Immigration Minister Joe Volpe to bar the gangsta rapper, real name Curtis Jackson, from crossing the border, because he allegedly promotes gun violence. 50 Cent, or Fiddy, is also a shooting survivor and stars in the film Get Rich or Die Tryin'.  "Not that I agree with everything that 50 says, but 50 is not nearly the cause or even a big part of the problem that's going on here," said Offishall, who shares a New York attorney with the gangsta rapper.  "These kids need other opportunities to keep them from being idle and getting into trouble," he added, nodding to the now- defunct 1993 Toronto Arts Council program where he nurtured his musical interest alongside contemporaries Saukrates, Choclair and Jully Black.  "Fresh Arts saved a lot of us," he said. "My career would not be where it is otherwise. It wasn't only a summer job, but something I wanted to pursue. But I want the youth coming up to know the power is still in their hands — not the police, or the government or the teachers. I don't want to hear that you had no choice but to sell crack; you just don't want to work at McDonald's or the gas station because of your pride. I have yet to meet anyone who sells drugs just so they can buy bread or drive a Honda Civic."

While loath to pinpoint any single artist, Offishall allows that violent, materialistic lyrics are bound to have an impact.  "Even if it's small, it's still a contributor, because music goes with every emotion that we have. If I'm pissed or angry and listen to angry music ... sometimes that helps to put you over the top; but if I go out there and do something stupid it's not 'cause 50 Cent told me to."  On
Fire and Glory his subject matter runs from police reform ("Everyday") to spirituality ("Sunday").  Offishall is looking forward to kicking off the 50 Cent tour in Vancouver on Saturday, though it's not a financial windfall.  "Basically, it's like he says `I'm 50 Cent and I don't need anybody to come on tour with me, so hold 50 cents and come on tour with me; if you don't want it, I'll get somebody else.' So it turns out to be more of promotional benefit, a chance to reach a mass of people to tell them to buy the album for Christmas."

 

Roberto Occhipinti: 'I've always wanted just to play jazz'

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Mark Miller


(Nov. 30, 2005) Roberto Occhipinti has options. In a busy career dating back to the mid-1970s, the Toronto bassist has played the classical repertoire with the Hamilton Philharmonic and Winnipeg Symphony orchestras, supported lyric sopranos and heldentenors with the Canadian Opera Company and delved into the contemporary avant-garde with New Music Concerts, Arraymusic and the Esprit Orchestra. He has also played salsa with Banda Brava, Afro-Cuban jazz with flutist Jane Bunnett and pianist Hilario Duran, hip-hop on tour with Gorillaz, Malian music with Gorillaz's mastermind Damon Albarn of British rock band Blur, and funk with Soul Stew. These affiliations weren't just one-nighters. Many lasted years; some ran concurrently. "Nobody believed me in the salsa band that I was playing with the opera," Occhipinti laughs now, "and nobody in the opera believed me that I was playing in the salsa band." Options, of course, lead to decisions. Of late, Occhipinti, now 50, seems to have made a few. Without exactly giving anything else the cold shoulder, he has returned to jazz, his first love from the days when he heard Miles Davis's In a Silent Way and Oscar Peterson's Night Train as a schoolboy in the Toronto neighbourhood of East York. "All the things I enjoy in music I can do in one form, jazz, because it's all encompassing," he explains, sitting one sunny afternoon in the kitchen of his home in that same east-end section of town. "Everything I enjoy about New Music I can easily find in jazz. The large orchestral things [of classical music], okay, you've got to give them up, but that sense of performing at a very high level is there in jazz. And playing music that's grooving, that's funky -- you can do all that in jazz, too."

And maybe you don't have to give up those "large orchestral things" either. Occhipinti's third CD, the mellifluous Yemaya (Alma), new this month, draws on the services of Moscow's Globalis Symphony Orchestra for three of its nine tracks. Indeed, it brings together many of the bassist's interests. Central to the CD is an eight-piece ensemble with seven Toronto jazzers -- tenor saxophonist Phil Dwyer foremost among them -- and either Dafnis Prieto or Ernesto Simpson, Cubans both, at the drums. Orchestrally, meanwhile, Occhipinti notes the influence on his arrangements of the late Gil Evans, Herbie Hancock's 1969 LP The Prisoner and the CTI catalogue of recordings from the 1970s, as well as composers Francis Poulenc and Sergei Prokofiev. It makes for an appealing dichotomy -- on one hand, the vernacular, as Occhipinti likes to put it, of his music's Afro-Cuban borrowings and, on the other, the more polite sensibilities of his own contributions as a writer. "You've got all this heat happening underneath, so up top you can do something cool," he notes, sounding just a little subversive. "I can slide in minor seconds because I've got a beat underneath." Ultimately, though, Yemaya is still a jazz record. "I've always wanted just to play jazz," he admits, as he brings his career full circle. "To work with a trio in a club, that would have been the greatest thing. But I'd always get drawn off to do this or that. I was a young man with a family, and I had this whole macho thing that I had to support my family." That's a noble Old World sentiment, of course -- Occhipinti's background is proudly Sicilian -- and work during his early years in the business was plentiful. "In those days, if you were a warm body with a bass," he suggests dryly, "you could get a gig. They were desperate for bass players, in the classical world especially."

The Hamilton Philharmonic called first. Occhipinti was 18. Then, two years with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra followed. Back in Toronto in the late 1970s, he diversified. "I was a workaholic," he remembers. "It's hard to believe now, but we used to do so much work in Toronto. There were times when I did five or six gigs in a day -- a jingle in the morning, and a record, play a show, then go and play in a club and, when Meyer's [an after-hours jazz room in Yorkville] was on, go and do that too." If he's not quite so busy now, he still keeps his hand in, contracting musicians for orchestral projects and producing recent or forthcoming recordings by Prieto, Duran and David Buchbinder. He has also been writing music for TV, including the popular Nelvana cartoon series George Shrinks, whose score echoes the hip, 1930s Raymond Scott recordings that accompanied the exploits of Bugs Bunny and other Warner Bros. characters. George Shrinks has taken the Occhipinti name where it might otherwise not have gone. "It's Branford Marsalis's favourite cartoon series," he chuckles, having been tracked down by the noted U.S. saxophonist through the Internet. "[Pianist] Renee Rosnes watches it with her daughter. All these jazz musicians with kids like it because they can hear what's going on underneath." Even better, he adds, speaking from a financial point of view, "It's the gift that keeps on giving. There's always a new four-year-old." And a good thing there is, too -- if Occhipinti's going to concentrate on jazz, never the most lucrative of endeavours. He's talking these days about working with a smaller band and turning from the Cuban influence toward "a more straight-ahead kind of vibe." But, whatever the details, jazz is the thing. "I like wine," he says, introducing an analogy to another of his passions, "and I decided years ago just to concentrate on drinking Italian wine. . . . I know that there are all sorts of great wines around the world, but I don't have time to taste them all. That's sort of the way I feel about music now."

Roberto Occhipinti launches Yemaya at the Montreal Bistro in Toronto tonight

 

Jazz Gets Its Groove On

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Tabassum Siddiqui, Entertainment Reporter


(Nov. 25, 2005) Think of jazz and a certain stuffy image comes to mind. Local jazz enthusiast
Graham Reid aims to change that.  Bored with stiff concerts and predictably programmed festivals, he decided to tap into less explored genres by creating the Nu Jazz Society, a group dedicated to expanding the range and reach of jazz locally while opening up the music to a younger audience. Pulling together other like-minded jazz fans who wanted to tap into more modern forms such as funk, R&B, house and "break jazz," or live jazz accompanied by a DJ, Reid formed the group this past summer and established the Jazz by Genre concert series. It launches Sunday at the Mod Club with a performance by American jazz-funk legend Roy Ayers.  "Jazz by Genre began out of a sense of what we have (in Toronto) in terms of a jazz experience here versus what we could have, given the spectrum of jazz out there and the spectrum of diversity we have here," says Reid, a 30-something media consultant.  The Jazz by Genre concerts, which will happen quarterly, will focus on a particular facet of jazz and marry it with emerging trends, such as turntablism and spoken word. Most of the shows will feature a break jazz component, Reid says, noting that aspect of the music is popular with younger audiences who may have been introduced to jazz through samples in hip-hop music or by hearing a DJ spin old jazz records.  "What we're suggesting, even to purists, is that this is a natural progression, given the technology we have today," Reid says.

Lest traditional jazz enthusiasts flinch at the dreaded F-word, "fusion," Reid wants to make clear that plenty of good old-fashioned jazz will be represented onstage.  Break jazz, where a DJ spins and mixes tracks as a live band plays, harkens back to the very origins of jazz, Reid says.  "Jazz is all about improvisation and in break jazz, the turntablist becomes just another player in the band: the songs he's mixing and cutting will be determined by the music that the band is playing and vice versa. It's a very free exchange of ideas."  Juno Award-winning keyboardist Eddie Bullen, who sits on the Nu Jazz Society's advisory board (along with author Austin Clarke and several music industry insiders), says even purists come around once they've checked out a show.  "Every time we play somewhere, the response is absolutely amazing. Not only the younger audiences dig it, but older folks as well," says Bullen, who plays in local down-tempo group Kush (also on the Jazz by Genre bill Sunday night).  "Bringing someone like Roy Ayers here, who's one of the innovators who takes something hip and marries it to jazz, is a great way to start."  It wasn't difficult to persuade Ayers, a noted vibraphonist with over 62 albums, to come on board, Reid says, noting that the Nu Jazz Society has garnered a strong response, with over 300 members signing up on its website.  Reid hopes the society will grow to a point where it can develop its own summer festival.  But for now, he's looking forward to the launch at the Mod Club, a venue better known for holding rock concerts.  "The club is ideally suited to what we're trying to do, which is a departure from the almost disconnected relationship between the audience and the performer, where the audience sits down and applauds politely," Reid says. "This is jazz that moves you — and allows you to move to it."

 

Barenaked Ladies Pillars Of The Season

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vit Wagner, Pop Music Critic


(Nov. 25, 2005) Yes it's only November, but the Barenaked Ladies were already on the road for a week toasting the holiday season in concert before Thursday's first of two nights at Massey Hall. At least the weather cooperated, even if the calendar didn't quite square with the occasion.  "It just didn't feel right until that crazy blizzard today," conceded singer/guitarist and co-frontman Ed Robertson.  If joining in the holiday spirit seemed a bit of a reach, it wasn't for want of trying. Even opener Buck 65 did his bit, closing his humorous, half-hour set with a hip-hop recitation of "The Night Before Christmas."  The main event was performed on a staged decorated to look like a traditional living room at Christmas, with stockings hung above the hearth bearing all five band members names: Ed, Steven (Page), Jim (Creeggan), Tyler (Stewart) and Kevin (Hearn).  Prior to the quintet's appearance, the audience was treated to carolling by a school choir. After a couple of songs, the children were joined by the band, which furthered the holiday theme with renditions of "I Saw Three Ships" and "Elf's Lament" as well as a Hanukkah number.  As things proceeded, at least as much of the set was devoted to the group's own repertoire. And it's probably fair to assume that the main attraction for fans was not to hear the Barenaked Ladies offer their inevitably inimitable take on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman" and "We Three Kings" as it was to catch them in a more intimate setting than their usual home stop, the Air Canada Centre.  Not that even venerable Massey Hall escaped their incessant needling.  "There are places where there isn't a bad seat in the house. This isn't one of them," joked Page, complaining that his view had been obstructed by one of the venue's notorious pillars when he was in the audience to see comedian Jon Stewart last month.  No matter. Both Page and Robertson were seldom stationary, moving around enough to give everyone a glimpse. And, in any case, audience members spent as much time on their feet as in their seats, dancing and singing along to "Pinch Me," "Brian Wilson," "One Week," "If I Had a Million Dollars" and other chart favourites.

The arrangements varied from more intimate, almost a cappella presentations to full-on rocking out. And the spirit was generally light and informal. Hearn dedicated his one vocal number to his mom, who was in the audience, and Page took Stewart's place behind the kit so that the drummer could come out and sing "Felix Navidad."  A note of near sobriety was struck after the band offered up its version of the Band Aid anthem "Do They Know it's Christmastime," a sentiment Page somewhat sheepishly acknowledged now seems "simplistic and condescending."  But their hearts were in the right places. Proceeds from the song are being donated to the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Lewis, the UN's special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, came out and accepted the cheque with characteristic graciousness and eloquence. Somewhat reluctantly, he was persuaded to strum the guitar while Robertson thumbed the chords to the Kinks' "You Really Got Me."  That gesture came as close as any to capturing what is meant to be the spirit of the season.

 

Stop, Hey, What's That Sound?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter


(Nov. 27, 2005)
XM Radio Canada's Toronto headquarters is a mess: Electrical wires, insulation and dust define the former Scotiabank building where more than two dozen trades people are hustling 14 hours everyday to turn it into a shiny, ultramodern satellite radio storefront by Dec. 16.  To passers-by, the operation, owned by Canadian Satellite Radio — a partnership between John Bitove and American XM Satellite Radio Holding Inc. — is a construction zone plastered with a bold yellow and black logo. But there are already a handful of early adopters, listening in homes and cars across Canada, to whom the subscription-based digital service is a new friend or even a historic new medium: The first satellite radio signal legally available in Canada.  Though XM's local studios aren't finished, the entity beat its rival, Sirius Canada — a joint venture of CBC, Standard Radio and U.S. Sirius Satellite Inc. — to the airwaves last Tuesday, because it's able to broadcast from temporary studios in Montreal. (Sirius is set launch this Thursday.)  The licences granted by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) got final approval from the federal cabinet only in September, and just two months later they're on the air.  "It's been a whirlwind," said Stephen Tapp, president and COO of XM Canada, last week amid the last-minute labours of getting the headquarters built and going on air.  The company's equipment — portable, at-home and car radios ranging from $99.99 (with a rebate) to $399.99 will be in stores nationwide on Tuesday — went on sale at Radioworld in Aurora a few days ago. And it was also mailed out to 4,500 online registrants eager to sample XM's 80 channels of commercial-free music, sports, news, comedy and children's programming.

"Yes, we're ahead of schedule," said Tapp. "We've just been working really hard to meet the demand we've been getting from our retailers and GM (which installs XM radio in more than 50 of its 2006 models) and other automotive partners to get the service up for Christmas.  "The Christmas selling season is the most important for satellite radio. And, based on Decima polling, with the awareness of satellite radio skyrocketing in this country to almost 50 per cent, we wanted to ensure that we were providing Canadians with a legal alternative, because the longer we were on the sidelines, the longer the grey market could take hold."  Since satellite radio came to the U.S. four years ago, Canadians would cross the border to buy the radios, then register for the service with a U.S. address. There were only about 85,000 of them, a handful compared to XM and Sirius' U.S. subscription bases (expected to be 6 million and 3 million, respectively, by year's end). But the people who ran Sirius took notice, not least because some of them run private radio stations here, and worried about the erosion of their audience.  Sirius may be a step behind XM right at the moment. But Gary Slaight is determined to compete and says that his $14.99 monthly service ($2 more than XM), with its 100 channels — including Martha Stewart Living Radio and the BBC — is worth it.  "We have more channels," he said simply. "It's going to come down to the quality of the product."  Relaxed in his 11th-floor office at Standard Broadcasting's Yonge and St. Clair West offices, Slaight describes himself as "excited but nervous."  Its 10 Canadian channels, two more than XM, were compiled with the help of partners CBC and Radio Canada.  "We already had the infrastructure, studios, people, programming, expertise and marketing clout," said Slaight, surmising that Bitove, CEO of Priszm Canadian Income Fund — which runs KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell restaurants in seven provinces — will "use his other business to promote the hell out of it."

He's most excited about Sirius's Canadian rock station, Iceberg Radio, because like all the other Canadian offerings, it will be available south of the border as well.  "This is a great business for us, but it also gives us an opportunity to give Canadian talent a window into U.S., because all those American subscribers will be able to hear them," he explained.  (Not that everyone is so excited. In September, a coalition of Canadian music concerns, including the Songwriters Association of Canada and the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, complained that thanks to the satellite ruling "a ghettoized form of Canadian content has been created by the CRTC. Ghettoes into which our music will be dumped — to go largely unheard.")  The most palpable buzz is in the ninth-floor office of Iceberg's programmer Liz Janik. Piles of CDs line her desk as she listens to music "non-stop" to consider them as candidates for the station she describes as "progressive adult," designed to include Bruce Cockburn, Our Lady Peace and Jully Black, just to pick a few names.  "Our mandate is 100 per cent Canadian talent. That would probably upset most broadcasters, but here we're pretty happy about that. We've put the word out that we're taking Canada to the U.S. We want to build on the success of acts like Shania, Avril Lavigne and Nickelback.  "Our playlist will be 25 per cent that's never been on a music chart and 25 per cent of albums that have been out for less than six months. So right away, half of it will be brand new music to be explored.  "And we're not just after hits. We're listening to entire albums to choose songs to put in the library. I'm looking for the right blend of familiar and tasty new treats."  When Iceberg launches on Thursday, the first hour will feature songs with the word "radio" in them. The first song?  "Rush's `Spirit of Radio' is a good bet," she said.

In the meantime, Slaight continues to get the U.S. signal with the grey-market box mounted in his SUV. He skips around from jazz (Brenda Russell's "Piano in the Dark") to hip-hop (Busta Rhymes' "Touch It").  "I started looking at satellite radio when it launched in the States," he said. "As a conventional broadcaster, I was sceptical. Then I realized the impact on commercial radio is going to happen anyway, so we may as well be part of it. It's a few years before we have to worry about (its impact on our main business); it's mostly subscribers, so we're not worried about it impacting ad support.  "But this is great for someone who loves music."  When the XM building at Avenue and Davenport is finished in a few weeks, it will feature MuchMusic-style-accessibility. The hoarding will come down to reveal a 7,500-square-foot, two-storey building fronted by grey granite with a retail store and ceiling-to-floor windows offering views of the main sports and studio."  Given the nine-to-one ratio of U.S. to Canadian channels, American offerings will be a distinct part of each broadcaster's image. (While Sirius Canada declined to pick up Howard Stern for broadcast here, XM is already giving Canadians the antics of U.S. shock jocks Opie and Anthony.)  Sirius' CBC-fed offerings are bound to have a more familiar sound, but XM is making an effort with its architecture to reach out to Canadians — at least those in the area.  "It creates a bond with the community," said Tapp. "Because it's satellite, a lot of people think it comes from nowhere, but we've taken the approach that we'd rather invest in a local identity so that people do connect with us."  You won't be able to get local traffic or weather, though.  "The CRTC did that to ensure that we would not be a threat to conventional radio stations," said Tapp. "I think there's room for everybody."  The building will also feature exterior speakers letting pedestrians listen to live interviews with visiting musicians and sports figures.  Does that mean MuchMusic-style screaming fans?  "We can only hope," said Ross Davies, vice-president of programming, formerly of CHUM FM.  "It's certainly going to wake up the neighbourhood."

 

Philadelphia Based Reggae Label Nap Musiq Releases The Passion Rhythm Project

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(Nov. 23, 2005) Reggae airwaves are currently under attack from a sweet and tantalizing rhythm called the Passion rhythm. Radio jocks from Jamaica, the US and in the Caribbean have already subscribed to this engaging beat, which is being touted as the next big thing in reggae music. NAP Musiq Productions, a Jamaica and US-based reggae outfit is responsible for the Passion project. Remember the hit We’re In Heaven by Da’Ville?  Or how about the Wash Pan rhythm?  Those project were released out of the Nap Musiq stables. The Passion rhythm comes to the fore with some juicy delicacies from some of reggae and dancehall music’s most sought after acts.  The primed Burn Dem by the fireman himself, the Prophet, Capleton has already being consumed by his loyal fans.  Dubbed as one of the hot shots to watch for, Burn Dem is easily recognized for its easy on the ears lyrics and appeal. Turbulence delivers Vampire, another strong effort which comes on the heels of his current chart hits Notorious and We Got the Love (featuring Sasha). This is another hit bound effort.  Chuck Fenda lashes out at people who crave for material things over life itself, as he raises the bar to a higher level on Material Things. After topping the charts with Place Too Bloody and No Guns a Dance, Anthony Cruz returns with No Better Than This.  Fans of the talented singer can look forward to hearing more of this ear candy on the radio.

NAP Musiq recording artiste Major Chris lifts his shades to reveal All Eyes on You, a credible effort, while Chrisinti whose hit single Oh Sheila recently did well on the reggae charts, unleashes Joy. Richie Spice’s latest effort Babylon System is a nice follow up to his recent hits Operation Kingfish and Righteous Youths.  Currently enjoying attention on the Billboard charts with Youth Are So Cold, Spice adds flavour to the Passion rhythm with this conscious tune. Rooted and Grounded is Luciano’s contribution to the Passion rhythm, while born again Christian, singer Singing Melody reminisces with You.  Don Yute who has been missing from the scene for a while now, returns with a bang on You Know and I Know.   After riding the charts with Lonely Heart, Bascom X makes a statement with his latest release Warrior and Thugs. Also featured on the Passion rhythm are Crissy and El Feco. NAP Musiq Productions which is headed by Neville Palmer, seeks to become the significant addition to the reggae/dancehall fraternity with a slate of ambitious releases and talent. With bases in Jamaica and Philadelphia, USA, NAP Musiq Productions comes to the table with a rich musical heritage.  I was born with a musical talent and raised in a music environment. Growing up as a youth I had one mission which was to make music and share the joy of music with others’, says Palmer.  He adds ‘NAP Musiq brings originality, quality, consistency, productivity, integrity and loyalty to the business. Right now we are focusing on producing tracks with some big name acts from Jamaica and overseas including some possible collaboration. Palmer, a noted producer, songwriter and manager was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He attended Donald Quarrie Comprehensive High School and later on Kingston Technical High School.  NAP Musiq was established in January 2003.

 

INXS Finalist Rides High: Suzie McNeil Thriving From Big TV Exposure

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist


(Nov. 24, 2005)
Suzie McNeil has been around the music business long enough to know that a career isn't made overnight.  As one of four Canadians selected to take part in the recent hit reality TV series Rock Star: INXS, and the last woman standing in the fiercely contested public battle for instant rock 'n' roll celebrity, the 28-year-old Toronto singer — and one of the stars of Toronto Blues Society's 19th Annual Women's Blues Revue at Massey Hall Saturday — is cautiously considering the myriad opportunities that have come her way since she was eliminated in the final stages of the Australian band's international quest to find a lead singer to replace the late Michael Hutchence.  The winner was Nova Scotian J.D. Fortune, but in a competition that attracted so many viewers and so much media interest during its summer run, there are no real losers, McNeil points out during a recent phone conversation from Los Angeles. She seems to be spending most of her time there these days, often in the company of American movie actor Hank Azaria, who is said to be smitten by the whisky-voiced blonde.  "I'm a realist," she says. "I didn't want to get my hopes up. While we were sequestered for the show, from June through August, it was hard to know how many opportunities would be out there for us.  "In the last two months I've learned there are many more opportunities than I could have imagined. I've been trying to figure out what to do with my career, and putting together a team I feel comfortable with — management, lawyers and advisers.  "Everything is on the table — a record deal, commercials, guest appearances, movies. I'm wrestling with time. I don't want to be pushed into commitments I might regret. I could have had an album out for the Christmas rush, but it would have meant recording the entire thing in two weeks.

"Besides, the people who watch these shows don't necessarily forget you. I can afford to wait 'til the right decisions are made."  No stranger to the Toronto blues scene, McNeil had played in a band for a couple of years with local blues harpist Jerome Godboo, and was a fixture for a time at the popular blues joint Healey's, where she got to jam with featured acts, including the Band's Garth Hudson and guitar whiz/jazz and blues booster Jeff Healey.  "Jeff booked my band Rounder into his club just after it opened, and talked me into taking more money than I'd asked for — I was stunned," McNeil recalls.  "I'm naturally attracted to the blues. It suits the shape of my voice, even though I've been in all kinds of bands since I decided to make my living as a singer. I've paid my dues, just like all the other singers chosen for
Rock Star.  "That's what set us apart from all the other music reality shows on TV."  McNeil's most consistent paying gig was in an Abba tribute show, Abba Mania, imitating the '70s Swedish pop group's Agnetha, using the name of her alter ego, Jackrabbit.  "I needed it to make ends meet," she says. "I don't think I'll have to do that again."  This year's Women's Blues Revue, organized by Toronto Blues Society President Derek Andrews, features a less traditional roster of artists than previously — McNeil, fresh from her brush with rock glory, former hard rocker Lee Aaron, jazz-gospel star Dione Taylor, R&B singer Shakura S'Aida, Ottawa folk and blues festival favourite Roxanne Potvin, and singer, actress and songwriter Salome Bey.  They'll be supported by a crack band of blues veterans featuring Lily Sazz on keyboards, saxophonists Colleen Allen and Carrie Chestnutt, Brandi Disterheft on bass, drummer Michelle Josef Sarah McElcheran on trumpet and guitarist Margaret Stowe.  "Each of us is doing three songs — two covers and one original. I'm really looking forward to this. I know all the other performers by reputation, but the only one I've actually seen is Lee Aaron.  "It's going to be a fun night — a bunch of women doing their own thing," says McNeil.  "After all the business I've been doing in the last couple of months, it's just what I need."

 

New Artist - Tango Redd - Set To Drop The Campaign

Source: Amina Elshahawi, amina@icedmedia.com ,     ICED Media

(Nov. 25, 2005) The single "Let's Cheat," is not only the theme of one of the songs on Tango Redd's debut CD, but it’s also the confident, hater-deflecting attitude that Redd has about his music in general. The 18-year-old golden child of Atlanta’s bulging rap community is the latest to step up to the mic and put it down for the dirty south, spitting rhyme and reason born out of his own life experiences as well as the experiences of those around him.  “I was born to do this,” says Tango whose age hadn’t even reached double digits when he wrote his first rhyme. “From the age of eight, I’ve been in the studio. At the age of nine, I made my first song. It’s just been that ever since. I feel I’m born to do it.” Describing his music as having “a southern feel with universal appeal,” Tango says he stays true to his southern roots without restricting his sound to the south.   “I have a lotta A-Town slang but my style is different because I’m a versatile person. I try to reach the world through my music, not just one region. I feel I'm creating my own sound and style different from everyone else. When you see me you know that I’m a little bit different – not only my sound, but my look as well,” he says, referencing his golden-coloured dred locs. “I want to reach the world with my music and have everyone enjoy it. That's what's going to make it special.” And with an out-of-the-box successful single – the David Banner-produced “Wobble & Shake It” featuring Bonecrusher– it’s evident that fans are already finding something special about Tango Redd as evidenced by his impressive spin count at urban radio and his presence on BET’s 106 & Park countdown.   “Who I Be,” which Tango describes as his formal “introduction” to the world, is a song that “tells people who I am and what I’m all about. “This song is basically telling people that I’m Tango. I ain’t going nowhere. I’m learning right now, I’m new in the game but I’m definitely here to stay.” On “None of Me” Tango confidently solidifies his newly claimed spot in the game. “I’m letting everyone know that I have arrived and I’m basically telling people ‘you don’t want none of me.’ I ain’t looking for beef but at the same time I’m never backing down. Whether you’re another rapper or just an average cat, you don’t want none of me.” Tango demonstrates his “streets smarts” on “Too Tricky,” a song he describes as one part club joint/one part street anthem. “I think everybody has done the things that I talk about in this song. It’s something everybody can relate to.” Sticking with the reality music theme, “So Ghetto” takes us on a lyrical tour through the ‘hood. “This is one of my favourites because this is going to let people know that just because we dress a certain way or we talk a certain way that doesn't mean we’re not smart; it doesn’t mean that things in the ghetto are always bad.”

Producers checking in on Tango’s debut set are Bangladesh (Ludacris, 8Ball & MJG), Cream Team, Mixzo, Juicy J and Mr. DJ (Outkast). Growing up in the ATL, Tango says he’s ‘seen it all.” “I grew up middle class. I wouldn’t say I was poor but we weren’t rich either. I came from the streets.” Tango, who never fails to credit his grandmother for her love and encouragement, says he didn’t always follow the straight and narrow. He admits to “getting his hands dirty.” “It has a lot to do with the people that I grew up with,” he offers. “Sometimes the people you grow up with tend to lead you astray. I was on the streets doing my thing. I’ve seen a lotta things on the streets. Everything that I’ve talked about, I’ve lived it or I’ve seen it. I just try to put it out there to let the public know what actually goes on.” He continues, “For me to be this young I’ve seen a lotta things. I’ve seen people get shot, get killed, right in front of my eyes. A lot of that pain, a lot of that frustration that I see another person go through I try to put it on paper. I just try to keep it real.” It wasn’t long before young Tango realized that the realities of his life, though they made great fodder for rap songs, were bound to be his undoing sooner or later. “At some point you have to step up and start being a man and start making manly decisions. That makes you the person you are. I chose to leave the streets because a lot of my partners were getting killed or going to jail and I didn’t wanna end up like them. I took that lesson and I learned from it. That has a lot to do with the person that I’ve become today. The streets have actually taught me a lot.” If anything truly good came out of Tango’s ‘pain’ and ‘frustration’ it is indeed the realness that it allows him to inject into his music and convey to his listeners. It’s that realness that makes Tango Redd a true contender in the competitive rap music game. “I feel I’m a lotta competition for other rappers,” he says without the slightest hint of modesty. “When you’re in the game and you have longevity and you don’t worry about what another artist is doing, that’s what makes you a better person and that’s how I am. I’m not really worried about being the next anybody. I just wanna be the best Tango. I feel like I had to go through some downfalls to get to where I’m at now but I definitely love it. I can definitely see myself doing this for the next five or ten years.” Tango Redd's Official Website: www.tangoredd.com/

 

Wyclef’s Hip Hop Protects Relief Efforts In Haiti

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Nov. 28, 2005) *The almighty power of hip hop is clearly evident in one of the most dangerous areas of Haiti.  In an effort to provide badly needed help to Cite Soleil, a new aid organization has teamed with
Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti organization in an effort to get food and supplies into the seaside slum controlled by armed street gangs. Using trucks with hip hop blasting through speakers on a makeshift stage, Yele Haiti recently helped the aid group enter Cite Soleil without incident or issues from local gangsters who run the territory, which is home to more than 200,000 people. Mamadou Mbaye, head of the United Nation World Food Program in Haiti, said the agency will not allow staff members to enter Cite Soleil because of the danger - so it handed its food supplies over to Yele Haiti to distribute.   “The gangs are really into my music, so we use that to connect with the population," Jean told the Associated Press by telephone from New York. "It helps us get in to help people that others may not reach."  Mbaye praised Yele Haiti for its ability to "take the first step and pave the way," for other aid groups. "People in dangerous zones have the same right to aid and food as the rest of the Haitian population," he said.  A gang leader who goes by the name General Toutou said he and others "have completely lost trust in the U.N.," whose blue-helmeted peacekeeping troops often engage in firefights with Cite Soleil residents.  But even with the gang's permission and Jean's popularity, the first major food handout lapsed into a hazardous frenzy as Yele Haiti volunteers and workers in bright orange and blue T-shirts were swarmed for their hundreds of bags of rice, beans, salt and cooking oil.  Under the hot sun, the crowd began to fight off each other to get to the food. Some gangsters could be seen striking people with belts and sticks while others ran off with whatever goods they could forage. In the distance, U.N. troops and gang members could be heard exchanging gunfire.  Ernia Saint Louis, who lives in Cite Soleil, said gang members stole her rice.

"It's great to bring food to the poor, but we never get any of it. The big guys take it all," the 26-year-old woman said as she picked beans from the dust and collected them in a fold of her dress.  Despite the problems, the World Food Program said it will keep channelling aid through Jean's group.  "Yes, it was chaotic, but it was a learning process for us and Yele Haiti," said Anne Poulsen, spokeswoman for the U.N. agency in Haiti.  Jean said his group would learn from the incident, which he views as a reminder of why Haiti needs so much help.  "We can't just wait for things to improve before we get involved," he said. "It's because we are trying that things will get better." Jean, who gained fame as a member of the Fugees, grew up poor in Haiti until his family left when he was 10. His Yele Haiti organization, named after a Jean song  following the violent rebellion that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, was formed to address Haiti’s 8 million poor living on less than $1 a day. "I grew up with no shoes and no pants," the 35-year-old musician said. "So, in the position I'm in today, I couldn't sleep if I wasn't giving back."

 

Don't go changing . . .

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Guy Dixon


(Nov. 28, 2005) 'Dumb-downed radio" is probably not the kind of listener response CBC Radio One's programmers were after. But they aren't surprised by the reaction. They hear that every time any major changes are made to Radio One's programming. The recent revamp of Radio One's weekday afternoons was meant to provide a livelier, more pop-oriented feel -- a midday recess, some at the CBC declared -- with new shows introduced such as Jian Ghomeshi's The National Playlist, Vancouver-produced Freestyle and the expansion of local drive-time shows. But the changes launched Nov. 7 have brought reams of negative reviews from angry listeners. "A copy of cheap AM material." "Commercial, banal chatter." "White bread." At least, the critics contacting the CBC remain colourful in their condemnation.  Various Internet discussion boards and blogs are also laden with spite, and there's even a website (http://www.stopcbcpop.ca) with a letter-writing campaign against the recent Radio One changes. Much of the vitriol has been aimed at Freestyle, the new Radio One show sandwiched between local noon-hour news and rush-hour programs.  It was chosen from various in-house pilots and proposals this summer and departs from the usual Radio One sound, with more pop music interspersed with offbeat news items, interviews and conversation between Kelly Ryan, a seasoned CBC Radio reporter, and Cameron Phillips, a former actor who had previously freelanced for the CBC. "Water-cooler fodder at its finest" is the show's slogan.

"Whenever there is a new change or new programming format that is introduced, this is the reaction. People, and radio listeners in particular, don't like change," said Jennifer McGuire, executive director of programming at CBC Radio, who helped create CBC Radio One's stalwart The Current, which attracted its own listener anger when it was introduced in late 2002. "But program development is crucial to a creative organization." In short, CBC programmers must feel damned if they do, damned if they don't. The latest round of changes was sparked by a study in the spring that determined, among various general findings about CBC Radio listeners, that 61 per cent of Radio One listeners would like more "entertainment" on the network and 66 per cent want (somewhat incongruously) more "comedy." Both of these suit Freestyle's format. But according to a report distributed to CBC Radio producers, the CBC's National Audience Services department received 38 negative calls and two angry e-mails between Oct. 29 and Nov. 13 from people generally upset by Radio One's changes. Yet Freestyle specifically attracted 144 negative phone calls, 173 negative e-mails and just eight positive e-mails during those two weeks.  In comparison, the long-running show Metro Morning in Toronto got one negative call, three negative e-mails and one positive one. (However, showing CBC listeners' steadfast ways and aversion to change, the local Ontario show Ontario Today, which is also being reworked, received 207 negative calls during those two weeks.)

Not all listeners were mad. Some said that Freestyle lifted their spirits, and although they thought they would hate the program, "change can be good," the audience service department reported. Of course, there's no telling what the majority of CBC listeners who don't bother to send in comments think. But for Paul Steenhuisen, a listener in Edmonton and a composition teacher at the University of Alberta, "It's hard to find CBC on the dial now just by turning it on and listening for it as you scroll through. If you do that [at] certain times of the day, you could not find it at all. The character of CBC's original content is being minimized." He has been among those leading the campaign against the new programming and has been actively contacting CBC senior management. He has also contacted them as a representative of the Canadian League of Composers, which has an interest in maintaining Canadian content, particularly the kind of Canadian content that rarely gets played outside of the CBC, such as new classical, avant-garde and less-commercial music. He would even take exception to Freestyle if it played nothing but the most critically acclaimed Canadian pop music (say, an act such as Broken Social Scene) amid the co-hosts' conversation.  "I don't hear anybody begging for more Canadian pop music [on Radio One]," he said. Instead, serious discussions with writers talking about their writing, artists talking about their art and music which can only be heard on the CBC are what he wants.

However, CBC programmers are being told by their study that Radio One's own staff believes (83 per cent) that the CBC needs to broaden its definition of arts and entertainment, meaning an acceptance of more pop content. It's also debatable whether a show such as Freestyle is merely copying pop radio. McGuire doesn't feel that it is, and it's true that the show doesn't have pop radio's usual cynicism and aggression. Also, the conversational bits between the hosts are obviously researched. One show this week, for instance, interviewed a collector of airplane sick bags, which was preceded by Doug & the Slugs' perennial Too Bad. Later, there was a short interview with the founder of the Dull Men's Club, which came after Billy Idol's Mony Mony.  The following day, some of the segments were a little more sober, including an interview with an introspective collector of found film left behind in other people's old cameras. McGuire says that the show is still evolving and that the CBC remains committed to it. It's part of what the CBC describes as an effort to keep programming relevant (a favourite word in last spring's study) to listeners, in other words to give them more of what they already know. Although many undoubtedly tune in to CBC Radio with the hope of being introduced to music and ideas that are new and enlightening. It points to fundamental differences in how people listen to Radio One and what they expect from CBC Radio, and inevitably these differences spark angry phone calls and letters whenever there's change.

 

Payback Time For Soul Singer

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vit Wagner, Pop Music Critic


(Nov. 28, 2005) Singer Bettye LaVette is nearing the end of her first exhaustive tour in more than 40 years. And the veteran soul stylist is starting to feel it.  "It's the travelling that's so wearying," says LaVette, on the phone from a hotel room in Minneapolis. "I haven't been on a promotional swing since I was 17 years old. And at this point I'm looking for a 17-year-old to complete this one."  The hearty laugh that follows this self-deprecating observation suggests that LaVette, who will turn 60 in January, is not about to throw in the towel just yet — which will come as welcome news to Toronto fans awaiting the singer's performance tonight at Lee's Palace.  It isn't that she has been a stranger to these parts. LaVette gigged at Harbourfront a couple of years back and was to have performed at the 2004 Toronto Bluesfest, before it was cancelled at the 11th hour.  It also isn't as if the Michigan native, who made her recording debut as 16-year-old Bettye Jo Haskins with the single "My Man — He's a Loving Man," has ever stopped performing, hence her aversion to that dreaded word "comeback."  But things are definitely different this time around, thanks largely to a widely praised new disc, I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, released by Anti-, a subsidiary of the punk label Epitaph.  It is perfectly understandable if her name doesn't ring a bell.

"Who is Bettye LaVette you ask?" writes Rob Bowman, the Toronto-based, Grammy Award-winning musicologist, in his characteristically authoritative liner notes for the new disc.  "The simple answer is that (she) is one of the greatest soul singers in American music history, possessed of an incredibly expressive voice that one moment will exude a formidable level of strength and intensity and the next will appear vulnerable, reflective, reeking of heartbreak. Unfortunately, it says much about the vagaries of the popular music industry that ... up to this point she has remained criminally unknown."  Although LaVette has recorded enough singles to fill several albums, her first full-length wasn't released until 1982. A previous album recorded a decade earlier was shelved by Atlantic, finally emerging on a French label in 2000.  LaVette's current run of good fortune started after Anti- president Andrew Kaulkin caught one of her performances in San Francisco last year.  "He came into the dressing room after the show and said, `I'd like to do a record with you.' Which didn't impress me at all. He had no socks on, he had a huge Afro even though he wasn't black, and he was wearing a T-shirt and some torn jeans.  "But when I got to know him better, I realized he's one of the smartest young men I've ever met in my life."  Kaulkin's idea was to produce an album of songs written entirely by women. Joe Henry, a singer/songwriter and producer who has worked with Elvis Costello, was brought in to oversee the recording, which features covers of tunes by Lucinda Williams, Dolly Parton, Sinead O'Connor, Aimee Mann, Rosanne Cash, Fiona Apple and other singers largely unfamiliar to LaVette.

"I knew Dolly Parton and Rosanne Cash, but that was it," she concedes.  Given the material, I've Got My Own Hell to Raise isn't, strictly speaking, a soul album; though that fine distinction is contradicted by LaVette's soulful transformation of Mann's "How Am I Different" and Parton's "Little Sparrow." LaVette tinkered with Williams’ "Joy," which enumerates places where the songwriter has unsuccessfully sought happiness, to reflect her personal geography.  LaVette is accustomed to being sold a false bill of goods by the music industry. But Kaulkin has delivered on the promise that his label would introduce her to a new generation of listeners. Beyond appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman, the tour, including a 10-day, eight-city European hop, has been booked into rock clubs catering to younger fans, some of whom have required a little schooling.  "I tell them, `I don't want you to do anything in the next hour and a half that you would not do when you visit your grandmother,'" says LaVette, a grandmother herself. "I had one table of young people who actually sent a letter apologizing for the noise they made."  For LaVette right now, it's all about validation — and a measure of vindication, as well.  "Yes, I'm bitter," she says. "But I'm not bitter with the people. Every time they see me they like me. They just haven't seen me because of the industry. It's the industry that has treated me very badly. And I am very bitter about it. I feel they owe me. And I want every damn thing they got."

Singer's Joy A Long Time Coming

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Brad Wheeler


(Nov. 28, 2005) They took a soul singer's joy. She wanted it back. She got it.
Bettye LaVette's "buzzard luck" life and times are told on Joy, one of the 10 tracks that comprise I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, an album of material written by women and sung heroically by LaVette. The disc was masterminded by the same team of producer Joe Henry and the record label Anti that put out Solomon Burke's triumphant Don't Give Up on Me in 2002. Except for one number, the songs are cover tunes, not written for LaVette. Joy is a Lucinda Williams song, but LaVette altered the lyrics to suit her life; Little Sparrow comes from Dolly Parton; and Down to Zero is Joan Armatrading's. There is a defiant tone that threads through the material, and if it is too much to say that LaVette now "owns" the songs, they certainly were returned in a condition different than the one in which they were borrowed. "That is what I am, a song interpreter," LaVette declares from Chicago. "I don't really see a reason to write for me, though I'll be happy if they do. Gosh, there's just a million songs that I could sing -- songs by Madonna, Louis Armstrong, Besse Smith, Duke Ellington, and Glenn Miller, and Tom Petty." Over the phone, LaVette, 59, is warm and spunky, her dusky, craggy voice breaking into an odd, halting laugh frequently -- "et-et-et-et-et-et." But when Ray Charles is brought up, as an example of a performer who took songs of others and transformed them into his own repertoire, LaVette admonishes. "No, it's like people used to sing. Writers used to write and singers sung their songs."

LaVette is talking of an era before the advent of the singer-songwriter genre. "When a hit song was a hit song, all singers sang it," she says, rather firmly. "You heard it in vaudeville, you heard it in the circus, you heard it on the theatre stage, the saloons -- and I like that notion. I think that the show business that I wanted to get in was over when I got into it." Born in Muskegon, Mich., in 1946, LaVette grew up in Detroit, where she scored her first rhythm and blues hit, the "insouciantly swinging"
My Man -- He's a Loving Man. She was just 16, and thought the hoopla would continue forever. "Of course I did," she says, her voice rising. "But for 44 years, it didn't." Other minor chart successes followed, but nothing on the scale of her contemporaries over at Motown Records, the hit-making factory that favoured the bouncy cheer of Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, the Temptations and Smokey Robinson. "They were my good friends," LaVette recalls. "We came up in segregation, but they became rich." LaVette's own more masculine voice (comparable to Tina Turner and Burke) was less cherished. "They would accept it from guys, but not from girls." And so, in her version of Joy, it is Motor City that is the villain. "Detroit always embraced Motown," she says. "It never did embrace me."  By changing the song's lyrics, LaVette's chase for happiness is covered -- trips to New York, to Memphis, and to Muscle Shoals in Alabama, where in 1972 she recorded her first full-length album. Rudely, the resulting Child of the Seventies was shelved by Atlantic. (It eventually was released, under the title Souvenirs, in 2000.) During those years, LaVette "suffered and starved," singing in "cheap joints," she says. It wasn't until 2004, with A Woman Like Me, that a comeback took hold. With the success of I've Got My Own Hell to Raise and a move to West Orange, N.J., joy has been found.

"Right now I've got everything I ever requested," LaVette says when asked if the lyrics to the stunning a cappella version of Sinead O'Connor's
I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got apply to her. Besides solid business and personal relationships, LaVette confidently notes that she "looks pretty good" and that her voice is strong. "And that's all that I ever asked for." Critics are quite united in their praise of the album, but good words come from fellow musicians as well. Bonnie Raitt says that "ache has never sounded so funky," while Elvis Costello speaks of a singer not content to live in the safety zone. "I don't really think about it," LaVette says, referring to her harrowing singing style. "I sing everything full out, and I don't care if I die while I'm singing. I don't really caution myself a lot." At the end of the conversation, LaVette excuses herself for a second to clear her throat. "I picked up a cold in Kansas City," she explains. When it is mentioned that there are worse things to pick up in that town, LaVette is amused. "Et-et-et-et-et-et. . . ." Bettye LaVette plays Lee's Palace tonight at 9, 529 Bloor St. W., Toronto (416-870-8000).

 

Delfeayo Marsalis: On Tour with Minions’ Dominion

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Deardra Shuler

(Nov. 30, 2005) Delfeayo Marsalis flashed an impish grin as he sat down for the interview.  He had just finished his first set at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in New York City where he was in top form.  Delfeayo is another slice of the great Marsalis talent pie and ranks second to the youngest in a family of top notch musicians that also include his father, Ellis Marsalis.  Delfeayo touts his own personal best on the trombone however and does not need to take a back seat to any of his brothers.  Of course this night he was in good company with heavy weights such as bassist Delbert Felix, alto-saxophonist Donald Harrison; drummer Ralph Peterson and piano great Mulgrew Miller rounding out the All-Stars performing that night as part of the Delfeayo Marsalis Quintet.   “Delfeayo,”  “D-e-l-f-e-a-y-o,” “DELL FEEEE YO!” utters Marsalis, pronouncing his name in various intonations and tempos at the onset of our interview.  His face twists into a big smirk and his eyes sparkle with elfin delight.  One can see immediately that Delfeayo Marsalis has a wonderful sense of humour and is a bit of a jokester.   Initially, Marsalis didn’t throw himself into the performance aspect of the music game.  Instead, he involved himself in the engineering/producing end of the business.  “The producer oversees the project and has to have more focus on the entire scope whereas the engineer is more concerned with the specific sound quality.  For example, if I were listening to a recording, I might suggest that it had too much bass or had too much low end and the engineer would take care of that technical end of things,” explained Marsalis who produced his father Ellis Marsalis at the age of 17.  In fact, that was his first producing project.  “I produced Syndrome for my Dad.  I also produced the London tenor-saxophonist Courtney Pine.  After him, Harry Connick, Jr., then Marcus Roberts, my brother Wynton, Donald Harrison and Terrence Blanchard.  I followed that up with a couple of movie scores for Spike Lee” said the talented producer who scored “Do The Right Thing,” “Jungle Fever,” and “Mo Better Blues.”  Delfeayo, in fact, can boast of a producing career which has resulted in the production of over 75 major label recordings.  The young musician also includes among his music scores, ABC’s mini-series “Moon Over Miami,” the off-Broadway production “Girl Gone,” and  Tennessee Williams’ plays Streetcar Named Desire and Glass Menagerie” as presented by the New Orleans Ballet.  He is also the founder of The Uptown Music Theatre which provides junior high and high school students with music theatre training.  A native of New Orleans, the young trombonist, took up the instrument at the age of 13.  He continued his studies in high school at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and later followed his musical interest to Berklee College of Music where he studied performance and production.  Delfeayo also holds a Masters degree in jazz performance from the University of Louisville. 

“My skills as a producer actually developed early which is really the reverse from what most people do.  Most artists generally perform, arrange, engineer, and then produce later on in life.  But I kind of did it backwards.  I think I did it that way more so due to practical application then anything else” remarked the mirthful performer.  “My brother Wynton needed someone to make the audition tapes for them.  I was a kid in the 6th or 7th grade and around the house a lot, so I just started to record for them.  At that time, I guess I would be considered an engineer because I had the microphone.  I followed that phase of my life for awhile and I experimented.  However, I now think its time for my second career, my second life,” stated Delfeayo of the new course he has plotted out for himself. Delfeayo interest in the trombone was inspired by J.J. Johnson, the legendary trombonist who died in 2001, and who was considered one of the world’s greatest trombone players.  Johnson played with the likes of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and Miles Davis.  Delfeayo himself performed with Ray Charles, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Abdullah Ibrahim, and Elvin Jones’ Jazz Machine. His latest project is “Minions’ Dominion.”  “Minions Dominion” is a quirky title.  I kind of like it because it’s catchy.” Stated the gifted musician whose CD is made up of predominately original material. “The album consists of two standards and five originals.  I am dedicating this album to the late Elvin Jones because he is basically the mastermind behind it” explained the young artist.   The Delfeayo Marsalis Quintet consists of his brother Jason on drums; Delbert Felix on Bass, Clarence Johnson on tenor saxophone (who was featured in the movie “Ray”).  The piano chair hasn’t been filled and thus far features guest pianists. “I am delighted to have Mulgrew presently because he is such a phenomenal player and seasoned artist.” explained Mr. Marsalis. Delfeayo spoke of his beloved hometown. “I can’t conjecture how long it might take New Orleans to come back to its former self, if it ever does.  However, New Orleans is a survivalist city much like jazz is a surviving music.  I think both will survive but I will just take a wait and see attitude for now” states the hopeful performer. Houston, San Diego, and Los Angeles are next on the Minions Dominion tour.  However, Delfeayo is already looking ahead to his next project which he plans to entitle “Don’t Be Afraid of the Blues.”

 

Collectables By Ashanti, Her First Collection

Source: Langston Sessoms  / ICED Media / langston@icedmedia.com

(Nov. 29, 2005) New York, NY - Call her
Ashanti. The first (and only!) woman in pop history to appear on three hit singles inside the top 10 in the same week – will have her first full-length collection released on December 6th, when COLLECTABLES BY ASHANTI arrives in-stores on The Inc./Def Jam, a division of Island Def Jam Music Group.  COLLECTABLES contains four newly recorded tracks, including the opening cut, “Still On It,” featuring Paul Wall and Method Man, produced by Irv Gotti for Top Dawg Productions and Slim. “Still On It” will impact at Urban, Rhythm, and Crossover radio formats on November 21st. The other new tracks are “I Love You” (produced by Jimi Kendrix for Family Bizness Musik and Irv Gotti for Top Dawg); “Show You” (produced by Irv Gotti for Top Dawg Productions and Chink for Soldier Productions) and “Found It In You” (produced by Full Force for Forceful Enterprises, Inc. and Irv Gotti for Top Dawg).  Six of the tracks on COLLECTABLES are rare, impossible-to-find remixes – including Ashanti’s top 5 R&B/pop crossovers of 2003, “Rain On Me” (in a new remix by Supa Engineer DURO, featuring Ja Rule, Charli Baltimore & Hussein Fatal) and “Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)” (remixed by Supa Engineer DURO and Irv Gotti). Three other tracks include a Who’s Who of hip-hop guests: Cam'Ron and Juelz Santana on “Only U” (remixed by Glen Marchese); Caddillac Tah on “Still Down” (remixed by Milwaukee Buck); Black Child on “Break Up 2 Make Up” (remixed by Supa Engineer DURO and Irv Gotti); and Free featured on “Focus.”  COLLECTABLES presents a panoramic view of the meteoric rise of Ashanti, whose emergence in 2002-2003 was acknowledged by the Grammy Awards, Billboard Music Awards, MTV VMAs, American Music Awards, NAACP Image Awards, BET Awards, Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards, Teen People magazine Teen Choice Awards, Soul Train Music Awards and Lady Of Soul Awards and more.  New York’s own Ashanti exploded on the scene in early 2002. Earlier, the classically-trained dancer, actress and singer was “discovered” by Murder Inc.’s Irv Gotti, who first placed her on a track with pioneering South Bronx Latino rapper Big Pun back in 2001 (“How We Roll”). Ashanti later showed up with a track of her own on the soundtrack album of the first Fast And the Furious movie (“When A Man Does Wrong”). Towards the end of the year, Ashanti was featured on “Always On Time,” the #1 R&B/#1 pop first single from Def Jam artist Ja Rule’s triple-platinum third album, Pain Is Love.

Just a couple months later in January 2002, Ashanti made her chart debut as a lead solo artist with “Foolish.” Two weeks later (in early February), Ashanti was back on a third single, as she was featured on Fat Joe’s “What’s Luv.” One month later in March, the stars aligned as all three singles converged inside the top 10.  Ashanti’s self-titled debut album was released on April 2nd, and debuted at #1 on both the R&B and pop album charts, setting an all-time sales record for a new female artist in the Soundscan era, with over 504,000 units in its first week out. Following up with two more top 10 R&B/pop crossover hits (“Happy” and “Baby”), the album stayed on the charts for more than a year and turned triple-platinum. Along the way, it generated nearly 20 major industry awards – beginning with Billboard’s year-end roundup as Female Artist of the Year, Top New Pop Artist of the Year, Hot 100 Singles Artist of the Year, R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of the Year, R&B/Hip-Hop Female Artist of the Year, New R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of the Year, and R&B/Hip-Hop Single of the Year (“Foolish”).  Ashanti’s next single, “Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)” dropped in May 2003, the prelude to her aptly titled second album. Chapter II arrived in July and repeated history, again debuting at #1 on both the R&B and pop album charts, and quickly spinning off a second single, “Rain On Me.” In addition to those two hits, COLLECTABLES adds the single remix version of “Break Up 2 Make Up” featuring Black Child (which charted briefly in 2004).  Following the release of Ashanti’s Christmas at the end of ’03 was her next album in December 2004 Concrete Rose, which was certified platinum and was boosted by the top 10 R&B single, “Only U.” From that album come remixes of two additional tracks, “Still Down” and “Love Again,” featuring Nas. One month after the album’s release, Ashanti’s career took a major leap with her first co-starring screen role alongside Samuel L. Jackson in Coach Carter (MTV Films/ Paramount). In May, Ashanti headlined as Dorothy in Fox’s all-star made-for-TV movie, The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, presented on ABC’s “Wonderful World Of Disney.” Ashanti will be co-starring (with teen stars Jesse Metcalfe, Brittany Snow, Arielle Kebbel and Sophia Bush) in the upcoming feature film John Tucker Must Die (Spring, 2006 – directed by Betty Thomas - 20th Century Fox).   

 

Anita Baker’s ‘Christmas Fantasy’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By DeBorah Pryor

(Nov. 30, 2005) Who else but Anita Baker would make time to perform an interview in-between errands? Fresh from a Krogers shopping trip this eight-time Grammy Award winner placed a call to EUR to make good on an interview that was sadly interrupted by the passing of the Mother of Civil Rights, Rosa Parks.  Once again, the petite songstress  gives us the best that she’s got with a new CD that is destined to be an instant Christmas classic; her first jazz album Christmas Fantasy is an absolute treat for grownups ready to start having some fun with Christmas.  The album hosts nine classic tunes rearranged and co-produced by Baker and Barry J. Eastmond; with three original songs and a whole new way of celebrating the holiday that generally has adults falling all over themselves trying to satisfy little Johnny and his sister Keisha. This exclusivity is being sweetly interrupted as Baker proves once again that she has definitely got the “it” factor; changing and rearranging traditional Christmas tunes that has been in our ears forever.   “Grownups, that’s my whole sort of approach to this album,” says the soulful diva who decided to take a ten-year hiatus and deal with life issues before coming back to her loyal following with the album My Everything last year. “[I wanted to] put grownups in the spirit of Christmas. We’re always working for Santa during the holidays. I just wanted to grow Frosty up…he needs to stop running around the Village Square with a couple of kids. Frosty is a ‘playa’!” she laughs. But the singer makes good on her words by doing a fabulous job on “Frosty’s Rag” her jazzy, ragtime rendition inspired by the late, great, Satchmo’s “Santa Is That You.” Never in a million years would grownups have imagined that “Frosty the Snowman” could be so appealing. And wait, there are many more surprises in store for you as Baker brilliantly tackles other holiday favourites including “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “O Come All Ye Faithful (featuring the Yellow Jackets)” and “My Favourite Things” all to perfection.

A lady that is as genuine as they come, it’s sometimes difficult to remember that Anita Baker is such a huge “celebrity.” Dare I use the overused term “down-to-earth?” There’s a genuine warmth to her; not that faked-out, publicist-instructed-warmth that so many celebrities have learned to tap into; but a genuine, can’t-help-herself-but-be-real kind of warmth.  Talking with her is like talking with your good buddy—no fronts, no-psuedo’s, just good conversation; and interestingly, her “speaking voice” sounds just like her singing voice. On the day of this interview, her explanation of why the interview was previously interrupted gives you a peep into the personality behind the voice. “We had to walk Miss Parks home,” she offers, in sharing her interpretation of the funeral that was attended by legions of people from all walks of life. Baker, who met Parks only briefly during her visit to Baker’s church, is hoping that the public will demand that Rosa Parks’ legacy be celebrated in a way similar to that reserved for folk like the late Dr. Martin Luther King; even adding, “Let’s call Stevie!” suggesting that the great Stevie Wonder consider penning another signature anthem-type-song for the petite lady who, while sitting still, stood her ground and caused a chain-reaction all those years ago.  At 48, Baker sounds happy and confident in her skin. And on this very grownup Christmas album, she once again surrounds herself with the very best; including Grammy award-winning songwriter/producer Barry Eastmond; who brought in new songwriters to help pen the album’s three original songs. “Once I heard their verses, and the chorus came, I knew I had it--‘Family Man’” Baker enthuses about the song that speaks to the beauty and purpose of humanity; adding that the songwriters “captured my feelings to a ‘T’.” The singer expressed sheer joy that Engineer Al Schmidt presided over the session. “When he comes into the space he has made your bed and all you have to do is create.”  With the mission accomplished in an amazing 14 days due to the busy schedules of the participants, Baker concludes, “These guys come in, they get it done, and they disappear…I have never done anything that quick!”

Christmas Fantasy shows Baker and Company looking at the tradition of Christmas, which focuses on family, and tweaking its lyrics. “Instead of please have snow and mistletoe,” she feels, “…please have greens and Black-eyed peas,” saying “I can hold that song now because it relates to me and what Christmas is at my table.” With her parents and grandparents now gone, she pondered, “What do we do? What do people like me do? We pull together extended family and neighbours and friends. I wanted to convey that idea.  Quoting the songs “Oh Come All Ye Faithful and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” as examples on how challenging this project was, Baker admits that doing songs that already existed took a lot of pressure off of her and described the project’s song selection process. “Before doing any record I get together with the producers in a room and go down the list, see what feels good; see what fits [and] what doesn’t fit. Every girl wants something special from Santa,” Baker swoons. “It doesn’t just have to be a little girl, [it could also be] a big girl that wants a big boy for Christmas!”  Christmas Fantasy is in stores now. Do yourself a favour and go shopping for it, today! To sample Anita Baker's Christmas Fantasy, CLICK HERE and scroll down to the "Track Listing" section. Click on the titles with the tiny speaker icon. Or, preview the e-card and hear short snippets.

 

MUSIC TIDBITS

Labelle, Scott Team For ‘Color Purple’ Track

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Nov. 25, 2005) *Philly singers
Patti Labelle and Jill Scott are recording the duet “What About Love?” to be included as a bonus track on the soundtrack of Broadway’s “The Color Purple.” Due Jan. 24 via Angel Records, the song is being produced by James Poyser. The cast recording will be produced by Jay D. Saks. "This is the first time in over 20 years that a Broadway score has yielded a song worthy of a label recording it as a radio single," says David Munns, Chairman and CEO of EMI Music North America, parent company of Angel Records.  According to Scott Sanders, lead producer of "The Color Purple," several labels entered into a bidding war for the rights to record the show.  "The very first meeting I had with Bruce Lundvall and the EMI-Angel team, they articulated a big-picture vision for taking 'The Color Purple' music to both a Broadway and a mainstream audience," he tells Billboard. Currently in previews, the musical has its official opening on Dec. 1 at the Broadway Theatre in New York. The show is directed by Gary Griffin and produced by Oprah Winfrey, Sanders, Roy Furman and Quincy Jones. The show also features original music and lyrics by composer/lyricists Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray.

Bjork's Favourite Wins Aboriginal Music Award

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Nov. 28, 2005) Toronto -- Nunavut singer
Tanya Tagaq was among the winners Friday at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. Tagaq -- who was featured on Bjork's last album, Medulla -- was named best female artist. Double winners were Winnipeg's Little Hawk, Ryan D'aoust of Norway House, Man., and Cape Breton's Forever. Little Hawk's 1492-1975 won album of the year and best folk album honours. Best rock album and best music video went to Forever. D'aoust, a 16-year-old left-handed fiddler, won the best fiddle album award for Southside of the Strings. He was also given the Galaxie Rising Stars Award, sponsored by the CBC. Best male artist went to Diga, from Fort Rae, N.W.T. CP

Busta Sheds The Dreads

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Nov. 28, 2005) *
Busta Rhymes is without his dreadlocks for the first time in 15 years. The rapper, who began sporting dreads during his early years with Leaders of the New School, has cut off his locks and is now sporting a Caesar cut.    “I started growing these sh**s in December '89. I was 17,” Busta said while filming the momentous shearing at a photo shoot and documentary in a New York barbershop. “I signed my deal and said I ain’t combing my hair no more. I don't have to."  Busta Rhymes, whose real name is Trevor Smith, will introduce his new look in the video for “Touch It,” the Swizz Beats-produced first single from his upcoming Aftermath/Interscope album “The Big Bang,” due in 2006. The video is scheduled to arrive at media outlets in the coming weeks.   “This is it kid,” Busta said in the chair as the scissors were approaching his noggin. “I haven’t felt clippers touch the side of my head in 15 years. Y’all gonna see the sexiest head you’ve ever seen in your life when I’m finished.”

George Huff Ready To Receive ‘Miracles’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Nov. 28, 2005) *
George Huff credits his strong faith in the Lord for sustaining him as Hurricane Katrina left his hometown of New Orleans in complete ruin.  "Sometimes I want to cry when I see all that's happened in New Orleans. It was really hard to go back home and see the place like that ... but He won't put no more on you than you can handle," the “American Idol” finalist tells Billboard. "He's the greatest gift you'll ever have. ... Anybody who knows George Huff, they know that I love the Lord."  That love affair is heard throughout Huff’s inspirational album, “Miracles.” released Oct. 11 on Word Records. The set’s first single, "A Brighter Day," has become a theme song of sorts for many in his native city. "I just want the people to know that there will be a brighter day," Huff says. The album title “Miracles” is also a nod to his time on “American Idol.” When Huff’s music scholarship money ran out during his senior year at the University of Oklahoma, he tried out for the popular Fox series and became a finalist – only to end up in the bottom two twice before eventually being eliminated. But when another contestant got kicked off the show because of a drunk driving charge, Huff got the call to come back. "That was another miracle story," the 24-year-old says of his surprise return. "It was an amazing journey."

Black Eyed Peas Get Another Big Gig

Source: Canadian Press and Associated Press

(Nov. 30, 200) Berlin — Fresh from the Grey Cup, the
Black Eyed Peas are headed to the World Cup. The Black Eyed Peas, who entertained during halftime at Sunday's Grey Cup in Vancouver, will join Peter Gabriel, soprano Jessye Norman and other acts at the World Cup's opening gala next year. Tickets ranging from 100 to 750 euros ($137 to $1,030 Cdn) went on sale Wednesday for the two-hour show on June 7 at Berlin's Olympiastadion that will kick off soccer's month-long showcase. FIFA hopes the new gala will become a tradition at future World Cups. It will be staged as a separate event from the first match, where the opening celebration has traditionally been held. "This is a legacy that should be transferred to all World Cups," FIFA general secretary Urs Linsi said. The opening match will take place two days after the gala in Munich and have its own show. Brian Eno will compose the title song for the 25-million-euro ($34.4 million Cdn) gala and Mark Fisher, who has worked for the Rolling Stones and U2, will build the stage. Organizers plan to use 5,000 volunteers as performers for the show and invite all members of past World Cup-winning teams to attend.

Lenny Kravitz To Start A Fashion Line

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Nov. 30, 2005) *
Lenny Kravitz is following in the footsteps of the many music artists who have launched their own clothing line.  "I'm working on a fashion house and home line,” the singer says according to Contact Music. “Everyone's been doing it. You've got Puffy and J.Lo, and Gwen (Stefani) doing a great job at it, and I've just kind of been laying back. Now's the time for me to do it.” A fashion plate in his own right, the guitarist says his line will not reflect his eclectic taste in clothing. "It's interesting. It's more of a life-style brand,” he says. “It's something that's just another outlet for me. I'm not doing it to slap my name on things and sell them. Obviously, yes, it's about business, but for me, it's a completely creative outlet."

 

::CD RELEASES::

 

Tuesday, November 29, 2005
 

Anthony B., My Hope, Groove Attack
Black Market Militia, Gemstars/Mayday, Nature Sounds
DAVE MATTHEWS BAND Weekend on the Rocks (CD/DVD) (RCA)
David Banner, Play, Universal International
Doris Troy, Doris Troy Sings Just One Look & Other Memorable Selections, Collectables
GINUWINE Back II Da Basics (Epic)
INXS Switch (Epic)
Jagged Edge, Jagged Edge, Sony
Master P, Living Legend: Certified D-Boy, Gutter Music
MICHAEL BUBLE Caught In The Act (Reprise)
Ms. Dynamite, Judgement Day/Father [Canada EP], Universal International
QUEEN A Night at the Opera: 30th Anniversary Edition (EMI)
Roots Manuva, Awfully Deep [EP], Big Dada
Royal Fam, Black Castle, Nature Sounds
SHAKIRA Oral Fixation 2 (Epic)
TALIB KWELI Right About Now... (Geffen)
The Coasters, Coast Along with the Coasters, Collectables
The Crests, The Crests Sing All Biggies/The Best of the Crests, Collectables
Z-Ro, Z-Ro and Friends [Chopped and Screwed], KMJ


Tuesday, December 6, 2005

5th Ward Boyz, Gangsta Funk [Chopped & Screwed], Asylum/Rap-A-Lot
Bettye LaVette, I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, DBK Works
Bob Marley, Man to Man, Jad
Chuck Jackson, Dedicated to the King!!/On Tour, Ace
David Banner, Touching/On Everything, Universal
Don Omar, Da Hit Man Presents Reggaeton Latino, Machete Music
Eminem, Curtain Call: The Hits, Aftermath
Funkmaster Flex, Funkmaster Flex Car Show Tour, KR Urban
Heather Headley, In My Mind, RCA
India.Arie, I Am Not My Hair, Motown
Lil' Flip, I Need Mine, Sony
Lil Wayne, Tha Carter, Vol. 2, Cash Money
Mary J. Blige, Reminisce, Geffen
OutKast, * Idlewild, La Face
Slim Thug, Already Platinum: Chopped and Screwed, Geffen
Snoop Dogg, Welcome to the Church: The Album, Koch
Talib Kweli, Right About Now: The Official Sucka Free CD, Koch
The Duprees, You Belong to Me [Collectables], Collectables
The Notorious B.I.G., Duets, Bad Boy
Various Artists, Body and Soul: Down Home Soul, Time Life
Various Artists, Holding the Losing Hand: Hotlanta Soul, Vol. 3, Kent
Various Artists, 32 Super Latino Hip Hop and Reggaeton Hits, Universal Latino
Various Artists, Mega Reggaeton Remixes, Machete Music
Various Artists, Reggaeton Classics Collection, Machete Music

::FILM NEWS::

 

Usher Confesses and Co-Stars Fess Up

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Marie Moore

(Nov. 25, 2005) *Emmanuelle Chriqui spills the beans on working with Usher in "In the Mix." But don’t expect any sordid stories. "The question of the day," Emmanuelle utters on cue, taking great joy in being put in an enviable position by Usher’s fans. "Working with Usher was fantastic. He’s such a good guy. He’s such a sweetheart and really, really talented. He’s such a professional."  Yes, yes, all the things one is supposed to say about your co-star. But then Emmanuelle offers up a tidbit of information we didn’t expect. She says the audition process was so hot, fans should expect to see it on the DVD when it’s released. And what do the others think of Usher? The Film Strip went searching for answers. Are you an Usher fan? "Yeah!" Chazz Palminteri retorted, almost as if insulted by such a stupid question. "Please. It’s funny. I've done all these movies, worked with Pacino, DeNiro and all these people and then my nieces and nephews, they said, ‘Who are you gonna work with next?’ I said, Usher.  Changing his cool, calm, collective posture completely, Chazz says in a shrilling voice, imitating the kids: "Usher, Jesus, God…I was like what? Then, they gotta come on the set. They never said they wanted to visit the set before. ‘You have to take me there,’ or, ‘Please’ or ‘My God.’ I mean, forget it. The man's a huge star, a huge star and he's a terrific. Director Ron Underwood also had an interesting fan tale to tell. "I’ve been a fan of his for a long time," recalled. "My youngest daughter took me to an Usher concert nine years ago. So I have been following his career and I have really been a big fan of his."

Naturally when Usher walks into the hotel room set aside for interviews, The Film Strip first question was how did he become a cross the board, household name? "Well, my mother thought I would be a household name [laughs]. She believed it more than anybody else and has always continued to fight harder than I would imagine I would fight myself. I remember having conversations with her when she’d say, 'I want you to be a household name.' She’s after me all the time, 'You shouldn’t do that. You shouldn’t say this. You shouldn’t look like that.' I’m like, Okay, well, it’s my personal preference. She’d say, 'You don’t do that if you want to be a household name.' Of course, there’s God’s grace in everything, but I say the one thing that was the key component in everything was the fact that she said it first. She started that." "In the Mix" is not Usher's first film but the first time he also holds down the title of Executive Producer. In the following interview, he talks about why he chose to do "In the Mix," among other timely topics.

Usher:  I chose to do 'In the Mix' because I wanted to be associated with something successful. First and foremost, I wanted to broaden my horizons as an entertainer, as an actor. As you’ve seen, I’ve done other acting roles, but this would be the first one where I took on a lead. I was excited about it, and when I heard Chazz [Palminteri] was associated with it, I was like, 'Wow! It’s really coming together beautifully. And after meeting Emmanuelle and seeing the chemistry that we had, I knew that we would create a great relationship on camera. I felt like this is the type of role a lot more roles in Hollywood should be like. People kind of tend to follow the trends. The character Darrell Williams in not just going after the stereotypical solution--the shot ‘em up, bang bang scenario. I wanted to go in a different direction. Do something that’s a little more positive.

Do you plan to focus on films for the moment?

Usher: Earlier in this year, I had a big press conference to tell everyone that there are two things that I’m going to focus on. What my new year’s resolution was to be – to have more acts of philanthropy as well as charitable work. I want to do that. I also really want to get into business. Shortly after that I became a partial owner of a basketball team, started a label and really began to put out records. This is the first time I’m going to introduce some of my artists, through the soundtrack of this movie.

So will you be taking the foot off the music pedal for a while? The label has to be calling asking for Confessions II?

Usher: Yeah. They’re not heavily anticipating a new album. However, it would be good in the marketplace to have an album. But to promote, to factor in the time it’s going to take to introduce it, promote it, market it, actually find the records and work with the producers. It doesn’t happen overnight. One, I have to live a little bit more. Let me come up with a few more songs and have a few more issues. This next album, I don’t think it’s going to be geared towards the same things you heard from Confessions. However, you will be able to find a good time. I plan on going on somewhat of a world tour. Not to perform, but just to kind of live a little and get out and have a little fun. I went all around the world with this album, but I didn’t really get a chance to live in it. Sometimes when you’re working you get engulfed, and you don’t get a chance to enjoy all the beautiful things you get to see.

What are some of the other places you would like to see?

Usher: I’d like to go to South America. I’d like to go back to Africa. I’d like to go to Japan, Korea. Kind of see what people are listening to, where they are with their music, study new dances, study new developments and introduce something new. Come back with something new – not just reproduce the same thing you’ve seen. Every time I’ve gone away, I’ve always come back and reintroduced myself.

What was the easiest or the most difficult in bringing this character to life?

Usher: It was pretty much a breeze. Once you see it on paper – I mean, I could relate to what they were talking about, although I have no ties to an Italian-American family whatsoever. As an African-American, I do understand how you can make a family of your own. I’ve done that with my closest friends and people who are not even related to me. They ended up being like brothers. Have you’ve ever had like a friend where you’re like, Oh, she’s my sister?

For a suave guy, what was one of your most embarrassing moments?

Usher: Whoa. No comment!

Okay, what about on stage?

Usher: One of my most embarrassing moments onstage? I fell in front of 25,000 people, in Philly.

What did you do?

Usher: Got up and kept going. I laughed it off, and they laughed with me. It actually made the show better. It actually loosened everyone up. After that happened, it was like, c’mon, I’m not perfect. I fall like everybody else. But come on, let’s keep it going.

Having so much fun, do you ever see a day when you’ll settle down, get married and have kids?

Usher: Well, right now, I’m preparing for the next 30 years. It's on the agenda, but I'm in no rush. I’m 27 years old, y’know?

Who are your role models?

Usher: In business, I look up to people like Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Role models include people like Danny Glover, Bill Cosby. As a young kid, just watching all these characters and knowing how they gave so much back was inspiring. They kind of took me in that direction. As an entertainer, I would pay attention to artists like Michael Jackson and Prince.

Describe your musical tastes?

Usher: I’m a classic artist, so I’m a classic listener. Even though I listen to up and coming records, I love to listen to old school albums. No matter how many albums come out, I always make my way back to 'What’s Going On' by Marvin Gaye.

What’s on your wish list? It seems like you have just about everything?

Usher: Mm-hmm. There’s so much more. There are so many other things that I’ve never done that I’d like to do. I wish to some day to play in a stadium full of people who know all the words to my songs. I hope to some day--as an actor win an Oscar.

 

Harold Ramis: The Ice Harvest

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Stephen Hunt


(Nov. 25, 2005) LOS ANGELES --
Harold Ramis has acted (Ghostbusters), written (Animal House, Stripes, Caddyshack) and directed (Groundhog Day, Analyze This) some of the most popular comedies of the past 30 years. This week, the 61-year-old releases The Ice Harvest, his first new movie since 2002's Analyze That. It's a film noir, he says, about the worst Christmas Eve in the life of a Wichita lawyer (John Cusack), who teams up with Billy Bob Thornton to rip off a local mob boss.

Are there really mob lawyers in Wichita, Kansas?

When I hear mob lawyer, I think of Marlon Brando. I think of New York, the five families. In Kansas, I see a bunch of corrupt Christians, guys who do some terrible things, but are not dedicated to crime the way you think of when you think of the Mafia. John [Cusack] plays a guy who's made bad existential choices in the moment, but wasn't born into [crime]. He found his life really empty. It wasn't going anywhere. He started coming home later and later, stopping off at the strip clubs the way men do -- I'm told -- and finally, he didn't want to go home at all.

Talk about telling The Ice Harvest in continuous time.

I thought that was a lovely aspect of the script. One day in college, when I was awake in English class, we learned about one of the classical unities. Greek Tragedy -- these dramas took place in one place, at one time. It creates a relentlessness. John's on screen the whole time, in every scene, and you're stuck with him. There's no getting out of it. There's not going to be any rests. They're not going to go out and wake up the next morning. There won't be any montages or interludes. Once you're on that ride, you're on that ride.

Can there be such a thing as a "passive leading man" in an American movie?

There's always a question [actors] ask: When their character isn't driving the action, they say, "My character's too reactive." They think of heroes as making choices -- literally, man of action. I don't know why being reactive doesn't work for them. It's equally valid, it seems to me, as a method of storytelling. Most people are so adrift in life, just reacting to their circumstances. How many people can honestly say they've taken charge of their lives? Maybe that's why movies deal so much with fantasy and projection, because audiences want to see characters who are in charge of their lives . . . but I've often written about characters who are just slouches. They just let things happen to them. Even the comic heroes -- Bill Murray in Stripes -- that guy's going nowhere. He's just reacting to bad circumstances. I wouldn't say he's an active hero in any sense.

Do you think there is a crisis in masculinity?

[New York Times movie critic] Manhola Dargis wrote something [about the theme of my films] that I really thought was right: What it is to be a man in the nineties? How do we deal with the conflicting demands of manhood? When I was young, I remember thinking, I need to be everything. Cary Grant, Errol Flynn and Harpo Marx. I wanted to be rich and I wanted to be an artist and a poet. We're all chasing something, wishing for something that's supposed to make us happy. Right back to The Ice Harvest. John is a guy who's almost given up on it, but now has vested ambition in finding love with Connie Neilson, and finding safety with Billy Bob -- the two worst choices you could possibly make.

What are you reading these days?

A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong. She's a former nun, who gave up the cloth after a trip to Jerusalem. She'd gone there thinking, this is a Catholic holy place, then saw Islam and Judaism more than equally represented there and she became one of the world's leading experts on Islam. Of course, after 9/11, I became very interested in Islam. I read Genesis. A lot of commentary. . . . I'm interested in the early world. I've read all of Barbara Tuchman's books. All of Richard Russo's novels. All of Philip Roth's novels.

Which film of yours do people reference the most when you run into them?

I get asked every day about every film . . . because I live in Chicago and I'm relatively accessible. I go to supermarkets and restaurants and it's like, "Hey, Animal House!" And the next person is, "Hey, Caddyshack!" and then, "Who you gonna call?" They reference all those movies and then serious people come up to me and say, "Groundhog Day was very meaningful to me." And then Italian guys put their arm around my shoulder -- "Hey, Harold, you know, Analyze This was effin' great." The greatest thing I hear from Italian guys is, "If you need anything -- and I mean, anything." I always get the feeling I could get someone whacked if I needed to.

Do you have any personal favourites among your films that you feel didn't get the proper amount of love?

My two orphan children are Stuart Saves His Family, the Al Franken film which was really strongly embraced by a handful of people, thank you very much. We were doing Stuart and I came up to Sherry Lansing, who was running Paramount, and I said, "Don't worry, this film is going to make a million." It didn't. It made about a half. And the other is Club Paradise, which I think has some very funny stuff in it, and which I also consider the first film about globalization.

 

‘Yesterday’ Premieres Tonight On HBO

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Nov. 28, 2005) *The chief concern for the writer/director and executive producer of the remarkable South African film “Yesterday,” premiering tonight at 9 on HBO, is that viewers will turn the channel once they realize that it has subtitles. Despite the film’s mesmerizing star Leleti Khumalo of “Sarafina!” and “Cry, the Beloved Country,” and its nomination earlier this year for Best Foreign Language film, and its compelling story about the struggles of a young mother who has been diagnosed with AIDS, and its seal of approval from Nelson Mandela himself, writer/director Darrell James Roodt and executive producer Anant Singh are worried that the mere presence of subtitles will throw all of those attributes out the window.  Never mind the fact that “Yesterday” is the first film in history to be shot entirely in the Zulu language, “which is a tragedy in its own right,” says Singh during interviews for the film in July. “I mean it’s such a beautiful language, it’s an ancient language and it’s [use in film is] a first.” Even with the historical relevance of its Zulu language, not to mention its breathtaking cinematography – shot entirely on location in Kwazulu Natal and Gauteng, South Africa – it is the presence of those darn subtitles that worries the filmmakers, as well as HIV/AIDS officials who have lauded the movie for putting a human face on the mind-numbing statistics. For example, it is estimated that 30 to 35 million people will be living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Sahara Africa by the end of the decade. By the end of this week, an estimated 56,000 Africans will die of the disease, and in South Africa alone, it is estimated that 1,600 new people will be diagnosed with HIV by midnight tonight. But so far, incomprehensible stats haven’t been enough to fire up mass interest in the African AIDS crisis. The existence of subtitles on one of the most critically-acclaimed films about the topic doesn’t help matters, according to officials behind the film.   “I know it’s difficult, a film in Zulu. And I’m sure it will have trouble getting as big an audience as some more popular entertainment that HBO has done,” says former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and President/CEO, Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS.

 “But this is a really important film, and I hate to use the word ‘important’ because important makes it sound dull,” he said. “It is an absolutely extraordinary insight into what it’s like in rural South Africa. Most people in the United States don’t realize it, but over 50 percent of the AIDS victims in Africa are women. And this woman got infected by her husband.”  The woman, named Yesterday, lives in a remote village in South Africa’s Zululand with her husband (whose days are spent away at his Johannesburg mining job) and her seven-year-old daughter Beauty, played by Lihle Mvelase. Although her daily struggles are tough, with little money and no modern conveniences, the smile she keeps on her face comes from the energy of her daughter. Their gorgeous relationship gets bumped into an even higher gear when Yesterday is diagnosed with AIDS and must journey afar to understand and battle her illness. Her saving grace through the diagnosis is Beauty, who is only a year away from beginning school.  Because Yesterday never had the opportunity to go to school, her number one priority is to be with Beauty on her first day of class, standing alongside the other proud mothers.   “What ‘Yesterday’ celebrates is the strength of the women of Africa and that they are able under very, very trying circumstances to prevail with issues of life that they have to deal with in the rural areas, and then with HIV and AIDS, and then trying to beat it – and beat it from within,” said Singh.    “Yesterday” marks the third time Roodt has worked with 35-year-old Zulu actress Khumalo, who was a young girl when he directed her in “Sarafina!” and a young woman in his “Cry, the Beloved Country.”  As for seven-year-old Mvelase, this film marks her acting debut. Her raw and rough-around-the-edges performance was exactly what Roodt was looking for when casting Beauty.

“I kind of auditioned a lot of child actors, but I didn’t want to go that route,” he said. “I wanted someone much more natural, and I think it’s all there in the movie. It was a beautiful thing to watch unfold as well. I had to play a little game with her to make her do what she does, and she does it in a very interesting beguiling way which just steals your heart, I think.” Roodt, a South African born filmmaker who doesn’t speak a lick of Zulu but has a “pretty good understanding of it,” tried to create a sense of kinship among his Zulu actors and extras on set.   “I spent a lot of time in these villages with villagers and I tried to integrate the actors into the community,” Roodt explained. “And it was a very moving experience for me because for years I’ve been saying, ‘Please let’s make films in all the beautiful languages in my country.’ There’s a lot of them.  And for years people would say, ‘No you can’t. I mean, a film in Zulu with subtitles? Who’s interested?’” Singh added: “You know what we found, though? Wherever we screened the film, the Zulu language actually enhanced the film.  And we’re very grateful that it’s going to play as an original film on HBO because when audiences get to see this film, they are very emotionally connected.”

 

Morita Left Mark In Karate Kid Role

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Jim Bawden, Television Columnist, With Files From Associated Press


(Nov. 27, 2005) When Pat Morita appeared in public in February on The Happy Days 30th Reunion Special on ABC, he looked shockingly sunken although he was as jokey as ever. The talented Asian-American actor was an iconic figure for many Boomers, first as Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi on two stints on Happy Days (1975-76 and 1982-83), and later as Mr. Kesuke Miyagi in four wildly popular Karate Kid movies.  Morita died Thursday at the age of 73.  His Oscar-nominated role in Karate Kid in 1984 defined his career. As Miyagi, mentor to Ralph Macchio's "Daniel-san," he taught karate while trying to catch flies with chopsticks and offering such advice as "wax on, wax off" to help Daniel improve his karate hand movements while doing his chores.  There were conflicting reports about the cause of death. His daughter, Aly Morita, said he died Thursday of heart failure at a Las Vegas hospital; his long-time manager, Arnold Soloway, said the actor died of kidney failure at a hospital while awaiting a transplant.  Born Noriyuki Morita in Isleton, Calif., on June 28, 1932, to itinerant fruit pickers, he suffered from spinal tuberculosis as a child. Although he was told he'd never walk again, an operation to fuse four vertebrae was successful and by age 11 he was finally walking on his own. He remembered being transferred after the operation from the hospital to Gila River internment camp for Japanese Americans in Arizona.  After World War II, the family founded the Ariake Chop Suey restaurant in Sacramento, where Morita began practising stand-up comedy. After graduating, he worked as a computer programmer. But Morita kept performing on weekends and at age 30 made a career change. "I was a Japanese stand-up comic," he once told me. "Think of it — it was new! So I billed myself as `The Hip Nip' and got all kinds of work as a wisecracker."  He joined the Los Angeles Improv group The Groundlings but found acting work limited. "In those days there were only stereotypical Japanese villains and these I refused to play. Anything comical I'd take."

Redd Foxx caught him on The Tonight Show and got him a recurring role as "Ah Chew" on Sanford & Son. He also was a guest on Green Acres.  As the wise and non-violent teacher Miyagi, Morita was able to practise what he preached: "The best way to defend against a blow is not to be there." The film, a real crowd pleaser at the box office, spawned three sequels: The Karate Kid II in 1986, The Karate Kid III in 1989 and The Next Karate Kid in 1994.  Morita then began billing himself as Noriyuki Morita. He wrote and starred in the World War II romance Captive Hearts (1987) and then starred in the ABC police series Ohara. More recently, he was hilarious supplying the voice of Miyagi to a vengeful Backstreet Boy in an episode of Robot Chicken (2005). 

Pat Morita, 73

Associated Press - By Tim Molloy

(Nov. 25, 2005) Los Angeles — Actor
Pat Morita, whose portrayal of the wise and dry-witted Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid earned him an Oscar nomination, has died. He was 73. Morita died Thursday at his home in Las Vegas of natural causes, said his wife of 12 years, Evelyn. She said in a statement that her husband, who first rose to fame with a role on Happy Days, had “dedicated his entire life to acting and comedy.” In 1984, he appeared in the role that would define his career and spawn countless affectionate imitations. As Kesuke Miyagi, the mentor to Ralph Macchio's “Daniel-san,” he taught karate while trying to catch flies with chopsticks and offering such advice as “wax on, wax off” to guide Daniel through chores to improve his skills. Morita said in a 1986 interview with the Associated Press he was billed as Noriyuki (Pat) Morita in the film because producer Jerry Weintraub wanted him to sound more ethnic. He said he used the billing because it was “the only name my parents gave me.” He lost the 1984 best supporting actor award to Haing S. Ngor, who appeared in The Killing Fields. For years, Morita played small and sometimes demeaning roles in such films as Thoroughly Modern Millie and TV series such as The Odd Couple and Green Acres. His first breakthrough came with Happy Days, and he followed with his own brief series, Mr. T and Tina.

The Karate Kid led to three sequels, the last of which, 1994's The Next Karate Kid, paired him with a young Hilary Swank. Morita was prolific outside of the Karate Kid series as well, appearing in Honeymoon in Vegas, Spy Hard, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and The Center of the World. He also provided the voice for a character in the Disney movie Mulan in 1998. Born in northern California on June 28, 1932, the son of migrant fruit pickers, Morita spent most of his early years in the hospital with spinal tuberculosis. He recovered, only to be sent to a Japanese-American internment camp in Arizona during the Second World War. “One day I was an invalid,” he recalled in a 1989 AP interview. “The next day I was public enemy No. 1 being escorted to an internment camp by an FBI agent wearing a piece.” After the war, Morita's family tried to repair their finances by operating a Sacramento restaurant. It was there that he first tried his comedy on patrons. Because prospects for a Japanese-American stand-up comic seemed poor, Morita found steady work in computers at Aerojet General. But at age 30 he entered show business full time. “Only in America could you get away with the kind of comedy I did,” he commented. “If I tried it in Japan before the war, it would have been considered blasphemy, and I would have ended in leg irons. “ Morita is to be buried at Palm Green Valley Mortuary and Cemetery. He leaves his wife and three daughters from a previous marriage.

 

Mychael Danna: Hey Shoot, He Scores

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By James Adams


(Nov. 28, 2005) To hear Mychael Danna tell it, the life of a motion-picture soundtrack composer is rather like that of Goldilocks and the three bears. Get commissioned to score a big-budget film and "you have almost infinite resources. But then you have to spend 50 per cent of your time on politics and human interaction because there's just a lot more people you have to get happy." Get signed to a small-budget film and you have a corresponding reduction of resources, "but the politics and the issues involved are way less intense." In short, it's hard to find that movie where everything is just right, as Goldilocks discovered with those bowls of porridge. Danna's comments derive from experience -- a lot of experience, in fact, since he's worked on the soundtracks of more than 30 films in the past 18 years, including three that have been released just in the past three months: Capote, directed by Bennett Miller, Atom Egoyan's Where the Truth Lies and Deepa Mehta's Water. A fourth recently completed soundtrack, for Terry Gilliam's Tideland, will be heard early next year. "Not bad for a kid from Burlington," as Danna's manager said recently. In fact, Danna, who turned 47 in September and became a father for the first time about six months ago, established a name for himself as a composer, arranger and conductor largely by working out of Toronto. Los Angeles has been his nominal home for the past two years, a move he made ostensibly "to cut down on the travel a little bit. But," as he said during a recent visit to the Ontario capital, "I travel so much anyway, I've been home just as little there as I was here. I don't feel any particular difference in my life. It's kind of weird."

That Danna is in demand around the world by a stunning array of filmmakers is a testament to his versatility and eclecticism as well as his sensitivity in "finding what role music needs in a particular film. Does the music need to be more about the characters, or the environment? Is it about providing a sort of subtext?"  This is a guy who can go lush and plush (Vanity Fair, Being Julia), minimalist (Capote), Bollywoodish (Monsoon Wedding), exotic (The Ice Storm, Shattered Glass), elegant/menacing (Where the Truth Lies), folksy and orchestral (Ride with the Devil) -- a reach he attributes in large part to his varied experiences in Toronto, from writing music for theatre productions at the University of Toronto and playing keyboards on a Triumph LP to singing in choirs and witnessing the city's multicultural explosion. (Accidentally putting his left hand through a window at 14 and tearing nine tendons as a result was another turning point: It meant his virtuosity would have to be channelled into the compositional/production side of music instead of the playing.)  In fact, it was fellow U of T student Atom Egoyan who first interested Danna in the potential of writing to film and, in 1987, hired Danna to score his first significant feature, Family Viewing. They've continued to collaborate, and it's what Danna did for such Egoyan classics as Exotica, The Adjuster and The Sweet Hereafter "that's caught other people's ears over the years" and served as a sort of calling card. "Luckily, I'm not pigeonholed. I'm able to move around fairly comfortably in a wide variety of styles, unlike other composers who get stuck, say, doing comedies." Not that there's anything wrong with comedies, he's quick to add. "Comedy and animation, those are two things I haven't done yet and I'd like to." Of course, for all the originality of Danna's compositions and his deft choice of sonic textures (flutes, banjos, glass and Indonesian percussion, fiddles, bansuris, throat singers), he is still, finally, a hired hand. "The director needs to feel ownership of the score when it's completed, needs to feel that it's part of the film's success," he said.

Sometimes the relationship doesn't work out: In early 2003, for instance, Danna was replaced by Danny (Batman, Men in Black) Elfman as the composer of record for Ang Lee's The Hulk. This after Danna had strenuously and, finally, successfully worked with Lee to score both The Ice Storm and Ride with the Devil. Danna tries to be philosophic when this occurs, in part because there have been times that he's been called in three weeks before the final sound mix to "save" another composer's work or work up a new soundtrack. Still, "I don't think anybody can say it doesn't affect them," he admitted, "even though when it happens, it usually has so little to do with the music and more with inner-film problems. I mean, it's a complicated business, involving a lot of money, a lot of risk and a lot of human dynamics. Sometimes this atmosphere of panic takes over in post-production," and the composer is jettisoned as a sort of sacrificial lamb. Unsurprisingly, there are directors that Danna will never work with again (he didn't name names but it's clear Ang Lee is likely on the list), but this isn't to say he only wants to associate with filmmakers with whom he can have a good time. "Working with Bennett [Miller] was tough, but I'd work with him again in a minute," he said. "Billy Ray, the director of Shattered Glass -- he's a tough, tough guy to work with, and that was a helluva struggle. But even though we beat the crap out of each other half the time, in the end there was a lot of respect there." After being in the biz almost 20 years, Danna has discovered "it's harder to write fewer notes than more. It's like panning for gold, getting rid of the dross," he said. "I mean, Where the Truth Lies has hundreds more notes than Capote because Bennett wanted a very subtle score and someone who would not overwrite. But we struggled over every note, to find those right four notes. He wanted that sense of restraint at the same time as he wanted the audience to feel every vibration in the atmosphere, this sense of destiny that was calling to Truman Capote." Another thing he's learned is "the sheer mysteriousness of the process, this making sound out of nothing. It's kind of terrifying. Sometimes, there's this feeling of not knowing what you're doing, yet at the end of it, there's this finished thing, and even then you still don't know where it has come from."

 

Sundance Announces First Round Of Picks

Excerpt from The Toronto Star – Associated Press

(Nov. 29, 2005) Los Angeles—Ashley Judd, Robert Downey Jr., Rosario Dawson, Paul Giamatti, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Tom Waits are among the stars appearing in movies competing at January's Sundance Film Festival.  Yesterday, festival organizers announced 64 films that will play at the Park City, Utah, festival that runs Jan. 19-29, including A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, starring Downey, Dawson, Chazz Palminteri and Dianne Wiest in a drama set on the tough 1980s streets of New York City's Astoria.  That film is among 16 that will play in Sundance's U.S. dramatic competition, whose highlights in recent festivals have included In the Bedroom, American Splendor and Napoleon Dynamite.  The competition also features Come Early Morning, which marks actress Joey Lauren Adams's directing debut with a drama about a self-destructive Southern woman that stars Judd, Tim Blake Nelson, Diane Ladd and Stacey Keach; SherryBaby, with Gyllenhaal in the story of a woman adjusting to life after prison; Giamatti, Michael Pitt and Michelle Williams in Hawk Is Dying, about an auto upholsterer spicing up his life by training a red-tailed hawk; and Wristcutters: A Love Story, with Waits, Patrick Fugit, Shannyn Sossamon and Jake Busey in an afterlife fantasy about people who have committed suicide.  Among 16 films contending for the top U.S. documentary prize will be American Blackout, director Ian Inaba's examination of voting troubles for blacks in recent U.S. presidential elections; The World According to Sesame Street, Linda Goldstein Knowlton and Linda Hawkins Costigan's chronicle of the venerable children's show.

Sundance Announces Its Film Slate

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Nov. 30, 2005) *"American Blackout," director Ian Inaba's examination of voting troubles for blacks in Florida and Ohio in recent presidential elections, is among the 16 films competing for the documentary prize at January’s
Sundance Film Festival. The film faces competition from "The World According to Sesame Street," Linda Goldstein Knowlton and Linda Hawkins Costigan's look at the long-running children's show; "Thin," Lauren Greenfield's portrait of four women battling anorexia and bulimia; and "Wide Awake," Alan Berliner's account of his struggle with insomnia. Among the 16 films selected for Sundance's U.S. dramatic competition is "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints," starring Rosario Dawson, Robert Downey Jr., Chazz Palmintieri and Dianne Wiest in a drama set in New York City's tough Astoria neighbourhood during the 1980s. Last year, Craig Brewer’s “Hustle & Flow” was the talk of Sundance after it set a record for earning the highest amount of money for distribution rights. Paramount-MTV paid executive producer John Singleton $9 million for the property following a bidding war. Overseen by Robert Redford's Sundance Institute, the nation's top showcase for independent film runs Jan. 19-29 in Park City, Utah.

 

FILM TIDBITS

Pirated DVD Raid Leads To 15 Arrests

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Nov. 28, 2005) Fifteen people have been arrested in Toronto's east end after officials seized pirated DVDs worth $4-million in three separate raids. Police from Toronto, York Region, the RCMP, Canada Customs and motion picture officials raided three malls in the Greater Toronto area. Roughly 200,000 DVDs selling at $20 each were recovered. Officials from the Canadian Motion Pictures Distributors Association called it the largest seizure of counterfeit DVDs in Canada. Police also shut down labs they believe were used to create illegal DVDs. Motion picture officials say Hollywood loses around $35-million in sales a year to illegal DVD sales in the GTA alone. CP


Hollywood Black Film Festival Looking For Entries

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Nov. 30, 2005) *The Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF) has announced its Call for Entries for its 7th annual competitive festival, to be held June 13-18, 2006 in Hollywood.   The festival will feature narrative and documentary features, short and student films, music videos and animation in its competitive program.  HBFF 2006 also presents a separate Storyteller Competition for screenwriters.     “The goal of the festival is to provide a dynamic forum to showcase the work of Black filmmakers,” says Tanya Kersey, Founder & Festival Director.  “HBFF 2006 will bring the work of accomplished and aspiring Black filmmakers to an environment encompassing the mainstream Hollywood community and Southern California film-going audiences.” The festival will be accepting submissions through Feb. 15.  Films must have been completed since Sept. 2003 and one of the film’s principles (director, writer or producer) must be black or of African heritage. The HBFF Storyteller Competition has a proven track record of putting winning scripts and screenwriters before key industry decision makers.  All ten (10) finalists will get hooked up for script consultations with screenwriting gurus and/or development executives. The early-bird deadline for film and screenplay submissions is January 15, 2006, the final deadline is February 15, 2006. Submission forms and guidelines can be obtained by visiting the official festival website at http://www.hbff.org.  The Hollywood Black Film Festival is also seeking several hard-working and dedicated volunteers to join its growing team.  These are volunteer positions only.  We are looking for two Associate Programmers (with 2+ years industry development or programming experience), Storyteller Director (must have screenwriting background and experience reading scripts and giving notes), and a Graphic Designer.  For more information on these positions, please email us at info@hbff.org.  In the subject line type: VOLUNTEER 4 HBFF TEAM and indicate the position you are interested in. For more information on HBFF 2006, phone (323) 556-5742, fax (310) 943-2326, e-mail: info@hbff.org, or visit the official festival website at http://www.hbff.org.

 

::TV NEWS::

 

A Hard Newsman Is Good To Find

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vinay Menon


(Nov. 24, 2005) It was a final broadcast without the traditional finality.  On Tuesday night, Ted Koppel ended a storied 42-year career at ABC News, including more than a quarter-century as lead host of Nightline.  Following the sullied retirement of CBS's Dan Rather, the end-of-an-era retirement of NBC's Tom Brokaw and the death of ABC's Peter Jennings, Koppel was the fourth high-profile U.S. anchor to depart in recent months.  But true to form, Koppel wasn't interested in becoming the story. There were no teary retrospectives, no redolent clips, no witness-to-history testimonials, no self-congratulatory segments that, in all honesty, would have been richly deserved.  Instead, Koppel gave viewers a repeat of sorts, revisiting one of his most memorable stories. In 1995, he interviewed Morrie Schwartz, a retired sociology professor who was dying of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. Schwartz discussed his illness with profound candour. And the series of interviews rank as the most poignant of Koppel's career.  At one point, he asked Schwartz to slip on his glasses, so viewers might better understand his deterioration. Lying in his bed, spectacles dangling around his neck, Schwartz agreed.  It is still painful to watch him attempt this simple act and fail: "I can't do it."  Koppel stood and tenderly placed the glasses on Schwartz's face as the conversation turned to death. Koppel asked Schwartz if he had any last thoughts — a question that could easily emit an exploitative stench had it tumbled from another mouth.  But this was vintage Koppel, an interviewer who never introduced treacly sentiment or bellicose posturing into the equation. Just a raw question and a pause as he waited for his subject to impart wisdom.

"The disease is not going to get my spirit," Schwartz said. "It can get my body. Will not get my spirit."  "You done good, Morrie," Koppel replied.  "Do I get to be one of the angels?" Schwartz later asked, grinning.  Off camera, Koppel cleared his throat, choking back the emotion viewers almost never witnessed.  "You'd be cute with a pair of wings, Morrie," he said sweetly.  That Koppel's final Nightline was devoted to Morrie Schwartz says much about the anchor. After all, here is a story about an indomitable spirit trapped in the vestiges of a battered body. A story about strength and perseverance in the face of inevitable decline.  A story that begins with an end.  Since March 1980, when Nightline debuted, television news has been in a state of terminal decay. Corporate consolidation would thrust news divisions into the jaws of vertically integrated behemoths, where profit always trumped story.  And so Koppel, with his "hard news" inclinations, would become an anomalous figure in an industry increasingly preoccupied with showbiz machinations, "get" exclusives, tawdry scandals and cheap rating stunts.  Nightline, which began after Koppel had spent months covering the Iran hostage crisis, was one of the first news programs to bring attention to AIDS. Koppel was also preoccupied with social issues, championing ongoing series on everything from racism ("America in Black and White") to the penal system ("Crime and Punishment").  Yet, despite some of the most insightful news and documentary investigations on television, Nightline's achievements often transpired quietly, without fanfare.  On rare occasion, there would be a ratings spike, as in April 2004, when Koppel devoted a controversial episode to reading the names of American soldiers killed in Iraq.  But overall, the show's audience atrophied over the past decade, slipping from about 5.5 million to 3.6 million viewers per night. Koppel was also stung in 2002, when news leaked that ABC had attempted to hire David Letterman from CBS, an addition that would have likely precipitated Nightline's cancellation.

Around that time, perhaps significantly, Koppel downshifted, often anchoring only three nights a week. And unlike Rather, who has remained with CBS, Koppel is leaving ABC when he begins a new chapter. (There are reports he and producer Tom Bettag will create documentaries for HBO.)  In 1997, Nightline went from one hour to 30 minutes as ABC added Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher to the schedule. Once again, Koppel, the throwback newsman, found himself surrounded by more comedy and late-night talk — the bane of his professional existence.  This may explain his final comments on Tuesday night. Referring to the revamped Nightline, which begins Monday with a trio of anchors — Terry Moran, Cynthia McFadden and Martin Bashir — Koppel unburdened himself with a pointed farewell.  "You've always been very nice to me," he told viewers. "So give this new anchor team for Nightline a fair break. If you don't, I promise you the network will just put another comedy show in this time slot. And then you'll be sorry."  It was his chance, after more than four decades, to impart the wisdom.

 

::THEATRE NEWS::

 

When Violence Hits Close To Home

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Tim Carlson


Here and Now
***
Headlines Theatre
Directed by David Diamond
At the Ross Street Temple

(Nov. 25, 2005) Here and Now charts Jay's quick and easy devolution from 19-year-old innocent to gang member who puts a gun to his friend's head and pulls the trigger. The tragedy unfolds in a series of conflicts that conspire against the young man. Domestic abuse arises partly from his immigrant parents' struggle to negotiate between the culture of contemporary Vancouver -- the here and now -- and the traditions of their Indian heritage. Lacking safety at home, Jay falls into the arms of a gang that offers the trappings of success: cash, cars, diamonds, sex, respect. The drama plays out in little more than a half-hour. Then things get interactive. In an instant replay, audience members volunteer to take on roles and try to redirect the scenes from conflict to safety -- the most important part of the exercise. Under director David Diamond, Headlines Theatre has practised what it terms "forum theatre" for nearly 25 years, delving into social issues such as homelessness and native suicide. Inspired by "sensationalist" articles about Indo-Canadian gangs, the Vancouver company conducted research locally with a cast and crew both pro and amateur. Media critique is not an essential element of the play, however. The project aims to dig beneath headlines that stereotype Indo-Canadian males, Diamond says, and to identify universal problems that affect anyone involved in violence. Here and Now is set in Vancouver's Indo-Canadian community and presented at its heart -- the Ross Street Temple. The cast is from this community: Shawn Cheema, as Jay, reprises the role he played in real life on the street. On opening night, audience contributions from a near-capacity crowd of 70 ranged from useful to slightly absurd to sensational.

One woman, who stepped into the mother's role, deftly broke down the conflicts simmering between family members, and defused her husband's violent tendencies. Then an audience member took Jay's role in the murder scene and blew away two of the other gang members instead of one. Diamond, as the "forum host," put his hand on the shoulder of the man, cleared his throat and said, diplomatically, "Well, I understand the impulse, but do you really think that would create safety?" Jagdeep Singh Mangat, a community activist well schooled in gang issues, who plays the role of the cold-blooded tough, Kam, didn't mince words when he said the trigger-puller was "dead, man. He'd be hunted down the next day." The most chilling moment came when Diamond asked spectators to raise hands if they were familiar with gangs who visit violence upon families or extort them to keep members in line. Nearly half of the audience raised their hands. Headlines Theatre has given the task of recording such moments to a "community scribe," Kashmir Besla, who will create an action report to be shared with local organizations. The material is insightful and well developed, enough to evolve into a full-length drama that could transcend its role as a social tool. Perhaps a work of art, one that's sensational in both senses of the word, would have broader appeal -- and influence. 

Here and Now continues to Nov. 27 at the Ross Street Temple, 8000 Ross St., 604-871-0508. It also runs Dec. 1 to 4 and 7 to 11 at the Surrey Arts Centre, 13750 88th Ave., 604-501-5566.

 

Performance: Umoja

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Louise Phillips


(Nov. 25, 20050 'I always wanted a lot of kids," says Todd Twala, "but I had only one, and then God gave me too many to handle." The Soweto-born choreographer is now the ultimate stage mother, with 80 protégés touring the world in Umoja, the hit show she created with compatriot Thembi Nyandeni. The song-and-dance extravaganza is an energetic showcase of styles, from tribal to hip-hop -- and a testament to her own remarkable journey. If you made Twala's life story into a musical, people would call it far-fetched. Prologue: At 16, she is a poor, uneducated single mother in Soweto, one of apartheid South Africa's beleaguered townships. She has three things going for her: An innate ability to dance, her teenage friendship with Nyandeni and an unshakeable faith in her own "God-given talents." The two audition, dance and eventually tour internationally. Act Two: Apartheid ends in the mid-1990s, but poverty and ignorance don't. Twala and Nyandeni turn their attention to the townships; they start teaching disadvantaged kids about their roots, via the music and the dances of the many tribes in Soweto. They take the community workshops to Johannesburg too, and street kids join up.

Act Three: Some of the youngsters are good enough to perform for an audience. (Twala's recounting over the phone conjures images from old Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland flicks: "Hey kids, let's rent a barn and put on a show!") A star is born -- or rather, about 40 of them. In 2001, Umoja ("the spirit of togetherness") takes off in South Africa. Twala and Nyandeni spend their savings and then their rent money on the production. A visionary music producer, Joe Theron, sells his house so they can take the show to London's West End. As Twala recalls in mellifluous South African tones, "Everyone said we were committing suicide." But Umoja is so successful, it spawns a second company of another 40 singers, dancers and musicians. They all call her Mama. Curtain. The story isn't over, however. With two companies touring the world, Twala is always on call for her charges. She is reluctant to betray their troubled pasts, but says that one of "her" boys lived under a bridge for four years before he came to Umoja. Today, "he owns a home and is taking care of his family. He is spiritually fine, emotionally balanced, physically strong." While most of the original cast members are still together, some have joined shows like The Lion King, or are learning to become sound engineers and lighting operators. "It's a platform for them to move on with their lives," she says. No production survives on good deeds alone: Reviewers are universally excited about Umoja for its robust dancing, stunning design and inventive choreography. Audiences respond to the performers, who are "not all six feet tall and size eight," Twala says, adding, "These are ordinary people doing things honestly. I don't tell them when to smile. They smile anyway."

Umoja runs Nov. 29 to Dec. 18 at the Vogue Theatre, 918 Granville St., 604-280-4444. Partial proceeds go to the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund.

 

 ::OTHER NEWS::

Men Of Their Words

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter


(Nov. 24, 2005) Dwayne Morgan says he's shy.  That's hard to believe if you catch the 31-year-old wordsmith/entrepreneur centre stage, delivering his saucy verses (I'm a cunning linguist/ Who gets on stage and performs verbal cunnilingus), or observe him behind the scenes, courteously but firmly corralling performers and their egos at one of the dozen events he produces annually.  "I don't necessarily like to speak a whole lot, especially in front of people, which is a weird thing since my life now revolves around speaking," he explained. Morgan's reticence is not that of the socially awkward, but instead a desire for fly-on-the-wall insights — garnering inspiration from the musings of others. The results include poems about history, politics and current events, such as "Murder Muzic" (Cowards with blood on their Nikes/Become murderers with guilt on their psyches), written after a mother of four was killed in a North York nightclub shooting earlier this year.  "I never claim to have the answers, but I want people to think, or question what they already thought. I try to write about the human experience, but I see everything through the eyes of a young black male."  His entertainment company, Up From the Roots, gives other black men a platform for their ruminations through When Brothers Speak, the seventh annual spoken word concert featuring the performances of Morgan and five others at the St. Lawrence Centre on Saturday.

Ottawa's John Akpata is on the bill for the first time. Soon after entering the field two years ago, the Carlton University English grad, who ran as a candidate for the Marijuana Party of Canada in the federal election last year, was named Ottawa's Slam Poetry Champion.  "I didn't set out to become rich or famous," said the freelance journalist and musician. "I write for my sanity and satisfaction."  For example, "Vengeance" (fear leads to anger anger leads to hate hate leads to suffering/once you start down the dark path/ forever it will control your destiny) developed out of Akpata's reading of the Hindu text Bhagavad Gita and his real-life experience of being verbally attacked by a visitor to his home.  "I've learned to laugh and let things go. What's the point of chasing someone down and beating him up?"  Given the gun slayings of more than a dozen young black men in Toronto this year, he plans to execute the piece at Saturday's show. "The politicians aren't moving fast enough; we need to reach the minds of people who are going to commit acts of violence.  "I want to let them know that, at 33, I'm taking revenge on a lot of people — all those people I went to high school with who called me names, or picked on me because of my age, attitude or racial and creative differences — by living well. I don't make a lot of money — I'm behind on my rent right now! — or have a lot of power, but I have a nice apartment and good friends; and I'm glad that at 16 I didn't beat up so-and-so and get arrested."  Returning to When Brothers Speak is New Yorker Earl Majette, aka Brother Earl, a former venture capitalist who began writing after his dad's death six years ago.  "When your people pass, you become the gatherer of their things," explained the 40-year-old Harlem resident. "My father was a fantastic storyteller. I went through his things and found poems he wrote. Then I found myself waking up in the middle of the night to write a poem for him."

Majette has since evolved into a self-described "conscious, erotic revolutionary with a strong sense of family," known for works about fatherhood, relationships and love, sweet love (You ask do I love thee?/I say look into your heart and be brave &/All your passions save).  The father of a 14-year-old son, he counsels pregnant teens and young fathers. He believes effective communication is the greatest challenge for couples. "To a large extent, women give sex for love and men give love for sex. Let's just say it certainly gives me stuff to write about."  Meanwhile, Morgan — who will also stage the sixth annual When Sisters Speak event in January — has just completed a short film based on his poem "Three Knocks" (What kind of man shows love by raising his hand?).  The Scarborough native studied mass communications and sociology at York University, mainly to fulfill his Jamaican immigrant parents' expectations for their first-born. He initially pursued employment as a youth worker, but "all the time I was still writing, putting out the books and putting on shows ..."  Today he runs a one-person operation which he calls "a hustle" comprised of performing, selling his books and CDs, and putting on poetry, dance, comedy and music shows.  "Whatever I think is a marketable and artistic idea, I'm going to go for it. Sometimes you lose money, sometimes you make money; it's all part of the game," said Morgan who addresses it in "They're Going to Talk" (They're going to talk about the price of my events/ Claiming that I'm trying to take advantage/ They've never put on a show/ But all of a sudden know about finances).

It's working out though: Morgan owns his own home, recently married and is up for his third Canadian Urban Music Award. He's even earned his parents' approval.  "The more they saw that people had value for what I was doing, and my picture was in the newspaper and not for anything negative, they just started to gravitate towards it.  "Now when they're available they'll come out to my shows and bring their friends. For me that's really important, because I always make sure that any show I produce is a show my family can come to and not feel disrespected by anything that happens on stage.  "At the same time I never censor anybody that's going to perform for me, because I hate being censored. This summer we launched an erotic anthology of poetry and short stories. That show was all going to be of a sexual nature; I knew it wasn't going to be my mother's thing, so I didn't invite her."

 

Glossy Magazine Celebrating The Lifestyle And Interests Of Black Canadians

“I am very proud of what Sway magazine represents. It is important to showcase the life of all Canadians, including black Canadians in a positive manner.”
– Her Excellency Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada

(Nov. 21, 2005)Metroland Printing, Publishing & Distributing and Chioma Productions Inc. are proud to announce the launch of Sway, a quarterly magazine that celebrates the power and the influence of Canada’s black community. In the first issue, which launches on Dec. 1, Sway will run an in-depth article on the Governor General of Canada, Michaёlle Jean. Her Excellency gave the magazine an exclusive interview, during which she spoke candidly about her childhood, how public schools are failing our youth and why the riots in France could happen here. She also discussed her plans on making her job relevant to Canadians, her daughter’s agenda, and how being black is an “everyday fight.” “Her inspired life and her message to the world sums up what Sway is all about,” says Sway Publisher, Chioma. This glossy publication will entertain with today’s trends, but more importantly, it’s content will represent and reinforce the positive identity of black Canadians. From food and fashion to business and news, Sway will offer local and international reports that reflect the diverse interests of its market. Says Chioma: “If Sway can do its part to showcase ordinary people doing extraordinary things that further enrich black communities and their cultures – then we will have met our mandate.” Sway will be distributed throughout the GTA in more than 2,000 blue street boxes, at Gateway Newstands in TTC stations, at certain GO Stations, and in 300 select retail outlets.

About Metroland

Metroland is a dynamic media company delivering vital business and community information to millions of readers across Ontario. In addition, Metroland produces specialty publications to satisfy reader and advertiser needs including Eye Weekly, Metro, Sing Tao, plus a variety of business publications, magazines, and other specialty products.

About Chioma Productions Inc.

Chioma Productions Inc. founded in 1999, is a company dedicated to producing tools that inspire individuals to realize and maximize their fullest potential; to be the best that they can be.

 

Ottawa Tosses Lifeline To Arts

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Martin Knelman, Entertainment Columnist, with files from Graham Fraser

(Nov. 24, 2005) Years of crusading, lobbying and begging from the cultural community came to a startling conclusion yesterday when federal Heritage Minister Liza Frulla announced the government is showering the arts with cash through a $306.5 million increase in the budget of the Canada Council.  That could mean an end to the woes of such major institutions as the Canadian Opera Company, the National Ballet of Canada, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Shaw Festival, which have all struggled for years with insufficient operating funds as a result of government cuts in the 1990s.  The new money is to be spread over three years, effectively doubling the arts council's funding by 2008. The council's budget for the fiscal year starting in April 2006 will jump to $207.5 million from $151 million (for 2005), to $251 million in 2007 and to $301 million the following year.  The news was received as an answered prayer from cultural leaders. "This is a great day for Canada," said Richard Bradshaw, general director of the Canadian Opera Company.  Karen Kain, who is both chair of the Canada Council and artistic director of the National Ballet, said: "This is thrilling news, not just for the Canada Council and the arts community but for all Canadians."  But sceptics were wondering whether this bonanza was real or just a pre-election promise blowing in the wind.

Frulla, who has been on a mission to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Canada Council next year, insists it's secure. "It's in the fiscal framework," she said in an interview with the Star.  "This commitment is solid," said John Hobday, director of the Canada Council. "The government has signed off on it, and the other parties have been extremely supportive of increased arts funding."  Hobday refused to say just how much of the increased funding will go to the biggest arts groups. After all, the council supports 2,200 organizations and as many individual professional artists, and it faces an ever-increasing number of applications for grants.  But according to Bradshaw, "the appropriate number that has been discussed" for the COC once it moves into its new home, the Four Seasons Centre, next year is $5 million a year. This year the COC got $1.69 million.  The National Ballet, also moving to the Four Seasons, is more impoverished, having run up a $448,000 deficit last year. And the Toronto Symphony, which almost folded in 2001, is back in the near-death zone after back-to-back deficits totalling more than $4 million.  The problem: compared to most other developed countries (except the U.S.), Canada's public funding for culture was pathetically low.  Recently, big money both private and public has been flowing to Toronto cultural building, but there was no guarantee that arts groups would have sufficient operating capital in their fancy new digs. Now there is reason to believe they will.  

 

Black Author Releases Second Novel With Penguin/Nal

Source: Paola A. Soto, Publicity Assistant, paola.soto@us.penguingroup.com

(Nov. 25, 2005) New York, NY - Cheryl Robinson became a remarkable success story after self-publishing her first two Novels, When I Get Free and Memories of Yesterday. Both received stellar reviews on Amazon.com and the Barnes & Noble website, cultivating an intense fan base for Robinson's work.  New American Library was proud to build upon Robinson's previous accomplishments by republishing Memories of Yesterday under the new title, If It Ain't One Thing (NAL Trade Paperback; February 2005; $13.95), hoping to bring this spectacular story to an even wider audience. The novel quickly became a best seller and continues to garner excellent reviews.  Now, Robinson continues Porter Washington's and Winona Fairchild's story with It's Like That also published by New American Library and the twists and turns continue.  In just forty days, Porter and Winona's life will never be the same.  Sometimes you need to make a change in your life. Even if it means hurting the one you love. Even if it means admitting your mistakes. Especially when life gets as complicated as this.  Meeting Porter may be the best thing that ever happened to Winona Fairchild - if you don't count the births of her two beautiful children. But as much as he wants to get married, Winona has good reason not to get close to anyone-no matter how right it may seem.  Despite the harsh realities of life that keep them apart, Porter is willing to stand his ground. But when Winona's long-held secret is revealed to her kids, someone will have to pay. Then Winona will learn how much the truth can hurt...and how much it can heal.

IT'S LIKE THAT
by Cheryl Robinson
NAL Trade Paperback; JANUARY 3, 2006
$13.95
ISBN: 0-451-217462

Visit the author's web site at www.cherylrobinson.com

Cheryl Robinson is a native of Detroit who recently relocated from Dallas, Texas to Central Florida. She has a degree in business marketing from Wayne State University and is employed full-time with DaimlerChrysler. She is currently at work on her third novel.

 

How Fashion TV Provided The Model

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vinay Menon


(Nov. 27, 2005) Believe it or not, there was a time when fashion designers were not demigods, models were not super, clothes were not to die for, and nipples were rarely seen on Canadian television.  But in 1984, Jay Levine had a revelation, one that would change all of this. The assignment editor — "ambulance chaser," to use his words — was sitting at his desk inside Citytv when divine inspiration arrived from, of all places, Vogue magazine.  "I didn't understand why there were so many magazines about fashion but there was nothing on TV," Levine recalls.  Convinced and, let the record show, eager to stop chasing emergency vehicles, Levine pitched his idea. A television series about fashion, he told management, would appeal to advertisers. It would reflect the urban, hip sensibility Citytv, then an independent local station, was trying to cultivate.  They loved the idea but didn't know what to do with it. So it languished on a shelf for months until April 1985, when Fashion Television was born.  FT commemorates its 20th anniversary tonight with a special (Citytv, 8 p.m.) that examines industry changes over the past two decades.  Jeanne Beker, the show's iconic host, was ready for a career change in 1985. She had, after all, covered the heady rock scene on The NewMusic since 1979.  "I never thought anyone could have a bigger ego than a rock star — then I met designers," she tells me, laughing. "Here were these incredible characters in the world of fashion. And they made for great television."  Today, of course, fashion is ingrained within popular culture. As I type this sentence, CNN is airing a "fashion investigation" to determine if "the Pope wears Prada."  Fashion has morphed, fused, spread like a triple-stitched contagion. It is, to borrow Citytv's tagline, "Everywhere." And Fashion Television, this small show from Toronto — goodness, they didn't even bother to trademark the name! — played a leading role in the world's beauty revolution.

Designer Issac Mizrahi calls from New York to say this: "This shifting paradigm of styles for the masses — and the changing definition of the word `style' — is in large part due to Fashion Television."  As the special documents, designers once toiled as anonymous dressmakers. There was a modesty to a business predicated upon the notion of art, a business that targeted elites with a pragmatic mandate.  As designer Jean Paul Gaultier observes: "Twenty years ago, fashion was to dress people."  By the time FT cameras started covering couture in Milan and Paris and New York, the friction between art and commerce was already revamping the vampers.  Marketing became as crucial as design. Runway shows became multimedia extravaganzas with budgets that could easily surpass $1 million. Designers such as Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani became household names. Models, some now elevated with the "super" prefix, could fetch $10,000 or more per day to strut and strike insouciant poses.  As Tom Ford notes, designers weren't designers anymore. They were the name-brand engines. And when they powered a publicly traded company, there was one objective: "Make things that sell."  As this transpired, Fashion Television was there, zig-zagging the oh-so-fabulous globe, interviewing the rogues and rascals, observing the zeitgeist from the runway's front row, demystifying a previously arcane world and, week after week, Pavloving curious viewers with Animotion's "Obsession."  Consider some numbers so far: 780 episodes. More than 4,000 story segments. More than 200 fashion shows per year. FT is syndicated in 75 countries. It has even expanded into an entire digital station.  And, along the way, it has helped democratize the business of looking good.

So did Fashion Television observe history? Or did it help create fashion history? My conversation with Mizrahi suddenly veers toward causal epistemology.  "What came first?" he asks. "The chicken or Jeanne?"  Dude?  "Well, over the past 20 years," he continues, "the (fashion) subject has been a very hot one and many people have been interested in it. But what came first? The interest in the subject or this very charismatic woman who made it interesting?"  Famed designer Betsey Johnson is on the line from her retreat in Mexico — "Betseyville" — where she has just enjoyed a few margaritas on the beach. Her praise for Beker is equally effusive, even atop her barking Maltese.  "Jeanne has been incredible," she says. "She has been a total support system since her show started. She's always so excited about stuff that she gets others excited. You want to connect with that enthusiasm."  Once upon a time, Citytv management seemed to have mixed feelings about Beker's rising stardom.  "That may have been a bit of a thorn in the side of the powers that be, even going back to Moses (Znaimer not, like, Moses)," says Beker.  "In the early days of the show, and I'm not kidding you — I will reveal this now because I don't care! — I was forbidden to say my name."  What?  "Moses, at one point, came in and forbade me from ever mentioning my name on the air." (Znaimer was travelling and could not be reached for comment.)  Beker says she was not the archetype producers had in mind when FT was in the conception stage: "They were auditioning models. They wanted some gorgeous, fashion-video-VJ-chick. That's what they were after."  It's hard to imagine FT without Jeanne Beker. And it's hard to overstate the show's cultural impact.  But for all the talk about the show's cultural dominance, there are still widespread parts of the first world where FT is known for one thing.  Two summers ago, Beker was visiting friends in Newfoundland. They live in a tiny fishing village. After spotting Beker, some nosy locals converged on her friend's home.  "My lord," one asked, "is that the girl from Tit TV?"

 

Shades Of Beauty With Iman

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Surya Bhattacharya, Life Writer


(Nov. 24, 2005) "They used to say in America that everybody wants to look like the girl next door, but the neighbourhoods have changed," declares supermodel Iman. "So the girl next door can be anybody now."  In Toronto to promote her new book, The Beauty of Color: The Ultimate Beauty Guide for Skin of Color (Penguin Canada, $42), the wife of rocker David Bowie and mother of two girls interviewed more than 100 women from many countries over a two-year period.  The result is a book on how to accentuate one's features based on different looks — from the freshly scrubbed face to über-madeup ghetto fab with gold and red eye shadow .  Iman, 50, chose to work with skin tones, rather than ethnicities, because skin tones overlap and extend on a global scale.  "In Asia, you now have Japanese women with light skin tones and then you have Thai and Filipino women as dark as us and the same thing applies in India and it definitely applies to Latino women. There are dark-skinned women like me," she says extending her arm "and then there are blond blue-eyed Cubans."  The book has the tips and techniques that come from 10 years of experience as CEO of IMAN Cosmetics.  For example, Iman says, any blush with gold shimmer works on all skin colours. The modern way to wear blush is right on the apples of your cheeks. But if you have a round face, you should swipe a champagne-coloured powder along your cheekbones and blush just underneath.  For the eyes, Iman recommends black liner — whether liquid, pencil, or shadow, she says they all work to add flippant sexiness.  Such advice also comes from working as a model for 15 years and having to carry her own foundation. When Iman first appeared on the cover of American Vogue, the makeup artist asked if she'd brought her own foundation.

"I thought it was a perplexing question because there were other Caucasian models and he didn't ask them that question. Obviously he didn't have anything for me, so he put what he thought would work and when I looked in the mirror I looked grey," Iman recalls.  But she was young and ignorant of fashion and photography. "So I thought the picture would magically make me look like how I really was: A brown girl. But the picture came out hideous and I learned quickly."  Iman then took to mixing and matching products to do her own makeup. IMAN Cosmetics followed and she sees her book as an extension of beauty products that allow women to challenge old ideas about makeup. One is the notion that women of colour should not wear blue eye shadow. Her book illustrates how you can combine emerald, gold, violet and blue eye shadow along with generous amounts of mascara to create a "peacock pretty" look for the eyes.  "There should be no rules on what you want to wear as a makeup, or how you want to wear it or when you want to wear it," says Iman.  And then there's the subject of skin-lightening products, which is still a multi-million dollar industry in Southeast Asia. Iman also sees the practice in Africa and is highly critical of the results.  "It doesn't lighten the skin, it just looks alien ... They look grey or dead.  "It's an old mentality that refuses to die," she says. "It's the standard of beauty that you've been bombarded with for years. The beauty ideal is blond hair and blue eyes. Anybody who is not that is not considered beautiful."  At one time, the modelling industry felt Iman was as dark as any woman might be. But that is changing. With Hollywood showcasing women of colour — such as Halle Berry, Jennifer Lopez and Lucy Liuthe changing face of North America is being reflected back.  The book also includes celebrities from Salma Hayek and Tyra Banks to Rosario Dawson and Venus and Serena Williams in photo shoots along with their baby pictures.  "When young girls look at these photos, I want them to think, `She's just like me,'" Iman says. "I want them to know `she is like you' and look at who she's become. I want them to find what makes them unique and different."

 

No Shortage Of Canadian Beauties

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bernadette Morra


(Nov. 24, 2005) Well, I feel like we have had our own episode of Canada's Next Top Model right here at One Yonge St.  It was back in 2001 and Iman was in Toronto to launch her cosmetics line. The Tyra Banks reality show America's Top Model had yet to be conceived and CHUM Television's CityTV had no idea that this spring it would be producing a Canadian spin-off series, hosted by Alberta-born model Tricia Helfer.  On that November day four years ago, I headed to the Eaton Centre to write about supermodel Iman's just-launched makeup collection. I found her chief makeup artist, Jay Manuel, painting the faces of two young beauties from local modelling agencies. Manuel, it turned out, was from Scarborough and had moved to New York to pursue opera singing. But when he began to make up stars such as Luciano Pavarotti for publicity shoots and album covers, Manuel realized he had found his calling. One job led to another and before he knew it, Manuel had been befriended by Iman and her husband David Bowie, and he became a consultant to her makeup line.  So there we were at Sears with Manuel describing the merits of IMAN Cosmetics as he outlined the rims of a model's lids. "Do you think we could do a shoot at the Star?" I asked. "We have our own studio. I can book it for tomorrow."  "No problem," I recall Manuel replying. "I'll take care of everything." Did he ever. The image, taken by Ken Faught, turned out to be one of the best beauty shots we have ever produced.  One of the models booked to work with Manuel that day was a new girl named Yasmin Warsame who was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and moved to Toronto in 1993.

"Jay loved her," recalls Charmaine Gooden, the freelance PR consultant co-ordinating the Iman/Sears event. "He became very inspired working with her." It was one of those shoots that no one wanted to end, a rarity.  Warsame went on to the Paris runways (and H&M billboards and much more) and Iman was evidently inspired as well, since Warsame is included in her new book (see story page E2).  Clearly Manuel had the eye for spotting model talent, something not lost on Banks, executive producer of America's Next Top Model. On the show, Manuel coaches wannabe models to run in high heels on a treadmill and he will be orchestrating similar boot camp scenarios when aspiring Canadian girls vie for a modelling contract on Canada's Next Top Model.  There should be no shortage of qualified contestants, seeing as Canada has produced more than its share of top-model talent.  And we imagine there will be plenty of viewers as well.  "There are so many women who watch America's Next Top Model with their teenage daughters as a bonding experience," says Gooden. "Who would have thought?"

 

Gov. To Meet With Tookie’s Lawyers Next Month

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Nov. 28, 2005) *With pleas of mercy coming from celebrities ranging from Snoop Dogg and Jamie Foxx to Bianca Jagger and Desmond Tutu, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would consider granting clemency to convicted killer Stanley Tookie Williams, the Crips gang co-founder who became an anti-gang activist while in prison. The governor announced Friday that he would meet with Williams' lawyers, Los Angeles County prosecutors and other parties involved during a private hearing at his Sacramento office on Dec. 8. Schwarzenegger is not legally obligated to hold a public or private hearing, and decides clemency requests on a "case-by-case basis," said his spokeswoman, Margita Thompson. Mike Farrell, a former co-star of the television show M*A*S*H, has been in the forefront of an effort to grant clemency for Williams, who is scheduled to die on December 13 should Schwarzenegger decide against clemency. Working with Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Farrell collected signatures from more than 100 religious leaders, lawmakers and other prominent folk for a clemency request that went to Schwarzenegger one week ago. Harry Belafonte; NAACP Chairman Julian Bond; U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; Bonnie Raitt and Russell Crowe were among the names attached. Williams, 51, was convicted of killing a convenience store worker and, days later, killing two motel owners and their daughter during a robbery in 1979. Maintaining his innocence, Williams has spent the last 26 years writing children’s books and speaking out against gang violence. A Swiss legislator, college professors and others have repeatedly submitted his name for Nobel peace and literature prizes. These efforts, supporters say, are reason enough to grant Williams clemency.

The crimes Williams was accused of were "heinous," said Farrell, a longtime death penalty opponent. But Williams has made "an extraordinary transformation."  On Oct. 19, Snoop Dogg told about 1,000 people rallying outside San Quentin State Prison that Williams' transformation is inspiring.  "His voice needs to be heard," said the rapper, whose new song, "Real Soon," touts Williams' anti-gang efforts.  The following Monday, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Bianca Jagger, a death penalty opponent and former wife of rocker Mick Jagger, visited Williams in San Quentin. Jackson said he prayed with Williams, promising, "'We are going to fight for you and we are going to win."  Foxx, who played Williams in "Redemption," a 2004 biopic that aired on the FX cable channel, used the recent New York premiere of "Jarhead" to reiterate the clemency plea urged at the “Redemption” red carpet premiere a year earlier. "If Stan Tookie Williams had been born in Connecticut in the same type of situation, and was a white man, he would have been running a company," Foxx told AP in 2004. "But, born a black man who has the capability of having brute strength and the capability of being smart in the ways of the world, he's going to get into what he gets into."  Foxx’s “Redemption” co-star, Lynn Whitfield, came to know Williams during pre-production on the film. She adds: "I don't think of myself as speaking as a celebrity. I come with the advantage of having delved into his story," she said. "No one has said, 'Can you just open up the gates and let Stan be a free man in the world.' ... But he at least can continue to do the work he's doing." If Schwarzenegger commutes Williams' sentence to life imprisonment, it would be the first time a California governor has done so since 1967. That's when Ronald Reagan spared the life of Calvin Thomas, a 27-year-old man convicted in a firebombing that killed his girlfriend's toddler son. His lawyers argued that Thomas was brain-damaged.

Gang Founder's Death Row Drama Gains Star Support

Associated Press - By Lynn Elber

(Nov. 26, 2005) Los Angeles — Jamie Foxx stepped into the spotlight at his latest movie premiere with more than the usual publicity drill in mind. Don't let it happen, the actor urged — don't let the state of California execute Stanley Tookie Williams, the convicted murderer and Crips gang co-founder who's been recast behind bars in the role of peacemaker. Foxx is not alone. An unusually varied collection of Hollywood stars and other famous names is trying to persuade Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that Williams — who has become a celebrity in his own right — can do more for society alive than dead. Williams' supporters range from the holy (Archbishop Desmond Tutu) to the street-wise (rapper Snoop Dogg, himself once a Crip). Whether a movie star governor is more inclined to consider their pleas for clemency is debatable. But the chorus is only growing louder as Williams' Dec. 13 execution by lethal injection approaches. His supporters cite Williams' efforts to curb youth gang violence, including nine children's books and an online project linking teenagers in America and abroad. A Swiss legislator, college professors and others repeatedly have submitted his name for Nobel peace and literature prizes. Last weekend, Snoop Dogg told about 1,000 people rallying outside San Quentin State Prison that Williams' activism has touched him.

“His voice needs to be heard,” said the musician, whose new song, “Real Soon,” touts Williams' anti-gang efforts. On Monday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Bianca Jagger, a death penalty opponent and former wife of rocker Mick Jagger, visited San Quentin. Jackson said he prayed with Williams, promising, “'We are going to fight for you and we are going to win.” Foxx, who played Williams in “Redemption,” a 2004 movie which brought the death row inmate's story to a wider audience, used the New York premiere of “Jarhead” to issue his plea. In a jailhouse interview last week, Williams said he is unimpressed by his prominent supporters (“I'm blasé about everything”) and relies on his attorneys to evaluate the benefit of efforts on his behalf. Hollywood's political and social activism has been known to provoke criticism. But Williams said he is unconcerned his famous boosters could create a backlash that might sway Schwarzenegger against him. “In the position I'm in, I don't see how anybody can hurt,” he said. “The truth is the truth no matter where it comes from.” Williams, 51, who saw the notorious gang he co-founded with a childhood friend spawn copycats worldwide, denies committing the 1979 murders that put him on death row. He was convicted of killing a convenience store worker and, days later, killing two motel owners and their daughter during a robbery.

The crimes Williams was accused of were “heinous,” said former “M-A-S-H” star Mike Farrell, a long-time death penalty opponent. But Williams has made “an extraordinary transformation,” said Farrell, who's lobbied for him for several years. In apparent recognition of the power of the pro-Williams movement, the state Department of Corrections launched an unusual counterattack questioning the sincerity of his anti-gang conversion and alleging he remains involved with the Crips. Lora Owens, stepmother of victim Albert Owens, opposes clemency and resents the celebrity involvement. “I think most of them are abusing their popularity and their access to the media,” she said. “It's an agenda. If they looked at the facts, then they'd realize Williams has not done anything to deserve clemency.” Williams' link to the entertainment world was cemented with the biographical movie shown on TV and at film festivals, including Robert Redford's Sundance. Several of those involved in “Redemption,” including Foxx and co-star Lynn Whitfield, have become backers. “If Stan Tookie Williams had been born in Connecticut in the same type of situation, and was a white man, he would have been running a company,” Foxx told the AP when the film aired last year on FX. “But, born a black man who has the capability of having brute strength and the capability of being smart in the ways of the world, he's going to get into what he gets into.”

Williams' support is particularly deep among blacks but extends much further, said Farrell. Working with Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Farrell gathered signatures from more than 100 religious leaders, lawmakers and others of prominence for a clemency request that went to the governor Monday. Among those whose names are attached: NAACP Chairman Julian Bond; U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; Harry Belafonte; Bonnie Raitt and Russell Crowe. Is there reason to think that Schwarzenegger's Hollywood ties might make him more receptive to celebrity pleas? “No,” Farrell said flatly. “One would hope that because he comes out of an industry beyond the political world that he's less subject to the pressures of politics but, unfortunately, his career hasn't demonstrated that.” So far, Schwarzenegger hasn't said much about the execution, other than that he views it as a complex subject. “It's never a fun thing to do. You're dealing with someone's life,” he told reporters. Williams' lawyers have requested a meeting with Schwarzenegger but haven't gotten a commitment. The famous have long rallied to high-profile prisoners, including American Indian activist Leonard Peltier, convicted of killing two FBI agents, and Jack Henry Abbott, whose jailhouse letters to novelist Norman Mailer were published as “In the Belly of the Beast.” Abbott's release, which Mailer supported largely because of the convict's writing talent, ended tragically when he fatally stabbed a young man six weeks after being released. Back in prison, Abbott committed suicide. Such celebrity campaigns rankle victim advocates. Nancy Ruhe, executive director of the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children, argues that they glamorize a man like Williams and confer unwarranted role-model status.

“He becomes someone to look up to,” Ruhe said. “There are so many people in our country you can look up to, but most certainly it should not be someone who has murdered several people.” If Schwarzenegger commutes Williams' sentence to life imprisonment, it would be the first time a California governor has done so since 1967. That's when Ronald Reagan — the last actor-turned-politico to govern California — spared the life of Calvin Thomas, a 27-year-old man convicted in a firebombing that killed his girlfriend's toddler son. His lawyers argued that Thomas was brain-damaged. Comparing Schwarzenegger and Reagan, veteran political reporter and Reagan biographer Lou Cannon sees a key difference: The future U.S. president had quickly made the transition from actor to leader, while Schwarzenegger, as Cannon sees it, still is struggling with the metamorphosis. “I don't think he's going to be dismissive of these (stars), because they're from his community, but ultimately that's not going to make his decision,” said Cannon. “He'll decide it on the merits.” Whitfield, who came to know Williams while preparing to film “Redemption,” said those merits are self-evident. “I don't think of myself as speaking as a celebrity. I come with the advantage of having delved into his story,” she said. “No one has said, 'Can you just open up the gates and let Stan be a free man in the world.' ... But he at least can continue to do the work he's doing.”


Stars Seek Reprieve For Death Row Crips Leader

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Nov. 24, 2005) LOS ANGELES—Jamie Foxx stepped into the spotlight at his latest movie premiere with more than the usual publicity drill in mind.  Don't let it happen, the actor urged: don't let the state of California execute Stanley Tookie Williams, the convicted murderer and Crips gang co-founder who has been recast behind bars as a peacemaker.  He's among many celebrities trying to persuade Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that Williams can do more for society alive than dead.  Supporters range from the holy (Archbishop Desmond Tutu) to the streetwise (rapper Snoop Dogg, himself once a Crip) and the chorus is only growing louder as Williams’ Dec. 13 execution by lethal injection approaches.  His supporters cite Williams’ efforts to curb youth gang violence, including nine children's books and an online project linking teens in America and abroad. A Swiss legislator, college professors and others have submitted his name for Nobel peace and literature prizes.  Foxx played Williams in Redemption, a 2004 film that told the death row inmate's story.  In a jailhouse interview last week, Williams said he is unimpressed by his prominent supporters (``I'm blasé about everything'') and relies on his attorneys to evaluate the benefit of efforts on his behalf.  Hollywood activism has been known to provoke a backlash. But Williams said he is unconcerned his famous boosters could sway Schwarzenegger against him. "In the position I'm in, I don't see how anybody can hurt," he said.  Williams, 51, who saw the gang he co-founded spawn copycats worldwide, denies committing the 1979 murders that put him on death row. He was convicted of killing a store worker and, days later, killing three during a motel robbery.  So far Schwarzenegger hasn't said much about the execution, other than that he views it as a complex subject. "It's never a fun thing to do. You're dealing with someone's life," he told reporters.

 

OTHER TIDBITS

Celebrity Mag Hello To Launch Canadian Edition

Source:  Canadian Press

(Nov. 29, 2005) Another Canadian showbiz magazine is about to hit the newsstands. Rogers Publishing announced Tuesday that next August, a Canadian edition of the British weekly publication Hello will be launched.  Hello began publishing in the U.K. in 1988 but actually is a spinoff of the 60-year-old Spanish magazine Hola.  "We're excited to partner with Canada's leading consumer magazine publisher to bring Canadians a rich mixture of articles and interviews from around the world," says Eduardo Sanchez Junco, president of the Hello/Hola Group.  Hello also has editions in Russia, Turkey, Greece and the Middle East, and the British version is already available in Canada.  In October, the Toronto Star began its own showbiz gossip magazine, Weekly Scoop, promising all the lowdown on stars both Canadian and international.  Rogers already publishes Maclean's, Chatelaine, Flare and Canadian Business.

 

 ::SPORTS NEWS::

 

Esks Ride Ray To Thrilling Win

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By David Naylor


(Nov. 28, 2005) VANCOUVER -- Quarterback Ricky Ray's season was a lot like the Edmonton Eskimos' experience in the 93rd Grey Cup game. It began well, suffered some setbacks along the way, but ended on a high. It all added up to the Eskimos' second Grey Cup win in three seasons and the second in a row for Ray, who spent 2004 on the practice roster of the National Football League's New York Jets. Ray completed a Grey Cup record 35 passes to lead his team to a 38-35 win over the Montreal Alouettes yesterday in only the second Grey Cup game to go into overtime. It was redemption for Ray, who entered the game without a single touchdown pass in Edmonton's past seven games, and who spent the final quarters of the Eskimos' two previous playoff wins on the bench while backup Jason Maas engineered wins. "It's been a tough last month," said Ray, who was chosen the game's most valuable player. "I've learned a lot. Everywhere I looked there were people saying I shouldn't be playing. . . . It's been hard to stay positive." Ray began the game looking sharp, if not spectacular, completing 18 of 24 during a first half in which Edmonton built a 10-1 lead and controlled the ball for nearly twice as long as Montreal. But that lead evaporated during the second half as the Montreal offence found its traction, building a 25-20 lead late in the game.

It was then that Ray completed what may just be the biggest throw of his career, on third-and-four from the Alouette 50 with fewer than two minutes to play. For weeks Ray and receiver Derrell Mitchell had struggled with their timing on a corner-route play that had previously brought them much success. But after studying game film and practising all week, they were ready to try it in the most critical of situations. "It was a call [head coach Danny Maciocia] has been making since I've been here," said Mitchell, who joined Edmonton from Toronto before the 2004 season. "He has a lot of confidence in me running the corner route, but in the playoffs we hadn't been hitting it. But I had been breaking my route off too flat toward the sidelines instead of going toward the end zone. I told him, just get some air under it and throw it high." Moments later Ray scored the go-ahead touchdown that gave Edmonton a 28-25 lead with just more than a minute to play and forced the Als into a final field goal to force overtime. Maciocia stuck with Ray despite the fact Edmonton's offence was held in check by Montreal throughout most of the second half, their only touchdown before Ray's carry coming on a Tony Tompkins 96-yard kick return. Despite going successfully to Maas the past two weeks, Maciocia never felt the need to do it again yesterday. "How do you?" Maciocia asked rhetorically. "He [Ray] marched the team up and down the field. I just told him 'keep believing, keep believing.' " "I hit the crap out of him," Montreal defensive lineman Ed Phillion said of Ray. "I hit him a ton and one time I didn't think he was coming up. But when the light's shine, Ricky Ray plays well. He sat there and took every hit we gave him. He's a winner. He put the ball right in the breadbasket even when we had guys covering them. He was a difference maker."

Montreal's third Grey Cup loss in six years was a heartbreaker for a team that had battled through much adversity in a 10-8 regular season. The Als also suffered through injuries to starting middle linebacker Jeremiah Garrison, safety Richard Karikari and offensive guard Paul Lambert. It was rookie Matthieu Proulx, filling in for Karikari, who was matched against Mitchell on the game's most critical play. The first overtime began with Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo hitting Dave Stala with a 30-yard strike to put the Als up 35-28 before Edmonton responded with a strike from Ray to Jason Tucker. During the second overtime, Edmonton opened with a 36-yard Sean Fleming field goal to make the score 38-35. But on Montreal's possession, a penalty and a sack drove the Als out of field-goal range and Calvillo failed on one last desperate third-and-31 attempt.

 ::FITNESS::

 

Fab Abs: 3 Ways To Own A Set!

By Raphael Calzadilla, BA, CPT, ACE, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…You must do the thing you cannot do."
-- Eleanor Roosevelt

(Nov. 28, 2005) One of the most rewarding things about being a personal trainer is that you get to see a client's progress. A good personal trainer should insist on progress. With my clients, I always have specific goals and time frames related to body fat, scale weight and sometimes, clothing size.  I do the same thing with exercise performance. I train clients to get better and to perform activity they never thought possible. This applies to weight training, cardiovascular endurance and flexibility.  I want you to experience that same type of progression. Hopefully you've been reading my articles and progressing week to week not only with your workouts, but also with your eDiets nutrition plan. Hopefully, your body fat and weight have been dropping and your exercise performance gaining momentum. I didn't say I expected perfection, but definitely progression.

Now it's time to apply this progression to your abdominal muscles.  I've constructed a brief but intense abdominal routine that should only be used by those who are ready to take it to the next level. It's not for the beginner or for those with injuries.  For those who read my articles on a regular basis, you know that I always teach that in order to get a flat and tight mid-section, you need to reduce body fat through a calorie-reduced nutrition program and by incorporating weight training and cardiovascular exercise to stimulate the metabolism.   This rule always applies.

Remember, one hundred or one thousand stomach crunches per day will not flatten the mid-section. Intense and effective abdominal exercises combined with diet, weight training and cardio will make your abdominal muscles firm, tight and visually appealing.  This article will focus on three advanced abdominal exercises that will strengthen and tighten your tummy, but I'm going to say it again -- your food intake must be effective and consistent.  After providing each exercise and a description, I'll explain exactly how I want you to perform it, as well as how frequently. The key to the effectiveness of any exercise is based on proper technique, sufficient intensity and intelligent frequency. Please note, you will need access to gym equipment for this specific workout.

THE WORKOUT:

Machine Hanging Knee Raise (for the lower ab area)

Starting Position:

·  Grasp a chinning bar with hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing forward. Keep your upper body motionless throughout the exercise.

Movement:

·  Contracting the abdominal muscles, raise your legs with bent knees while gently rolling your hips under, stopping when you feel a full contraction of the abdominals and can no longer lift your hips. You may get your knees to 90 degrees or higher depending on your strength and flexibility.

·  Slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting your legs.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

Cable Kneeling Rope Crunch (for the upper and lower ab area)

Starting Position:

·  Kneel in front of the cable machine with your body facing the machine. Hold a rope attached to the upper cable attachment. Keep your elbows by the sides of your head.

Movement:

·  Contracting the abdominals, curl your body downward toward your legs stopping when you have reached a full contraction of your abdominals.

·  Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of the weight stack touching.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting the weight and curling down.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

Decline Bench Sit-Ups (for the upper ab area)

Starting Position:

·  Lie on your back on a decline bench and place your feet under the pads and your hands behind your head.

Movement:

·  Contracting the abdominals, curl your upper body up until it is at an angle slightly less than 90 degrees to the floor.

·  Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your head touching the bench to keep the abdominals contracted throughout the set.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while curling up.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

·  To increase the difficulty, cross your arms over your chest.

·  Point your chin toward the ceiling to avoid using your upper body.

FREQUENCY:
Perform each exercise for 12-15 repetitions and make sure to contract tight and focus on precise form. You only need to do two sets of each exercise on three alternate days per week. The key is to keep the intensity level high as well as a constant contraction on the abs. As you progress, you’ll be amazed at how many reps you can perform and how hard and tight your abs get. Remember, work at your own personal fitness level and focus on perfect form to avoid injury and in order to isolate the muscle.  This routine is effective and produces results when you're consistent on your eDiets Nutrition program and overall workout program. It's all about balancing all the components to achieve the body you rightfully deserve.  As always, please check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

 

 ::MOTIVATION::

 

Motivational Note:  How do I get unstuck and start living again?

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - by Motivational Speaker, Dr. Jewel Diamond Taylor, www.DoNotGiveUp.net e-mail – JewelMotivates@aol.com

Someone had stolen her smile and her joy. Her face was twisted with bitterness. She asked me, "Jewel, how can I let love back into my life again? How do I get unstuck and start living again? I heard your keynote message and yet I'm sitting here mad with a made-up mind that I'll never be happy again because of my broken heart. I don't think I can ever trust again." The sister had been betrayed and now she is convinced that she'll never find happiness again. I answered her by sharing, "You are allowing this man to continue to hurt you. He broke your heart and now you are allowing the memory of him to steal your hope and joy. It's only normal and healthy to be angry, discerning and careful after being hurt. This means your survival instinct is working by allowing your heart, mind and spirit to protect you from future misery. But if you're not careful, you'll get stuck in these emotions and never heal. You could be holding onto the anger because unconsciously it allows you to still hold on to him. If you're convinced you can't find love again and all relationships will fail, that is exactly what you will continue to experience. It's called self-fulfilling prophecy. Once an expectation is set, you will act in ways to meet that expectation. Once you are ready to move on, then you will begin the healing process; more wiser, whole and no longer tied to the weight of pain. There is so much more of life and love for you to experience. As Sofia says in “The Color Purple,” "He ain't worth it." Don't allow him or the experience to keep you stuck in misery and fear. If he hurt you once, shame on him. If you allow him to continue to hurt you, then you are allowing it. You are a beautiful woman. Look at how you have allowed this experience to steal your smile and joy. Your body language is shouting..."Stay away from me. I'm pissed off. I'm angry at the world!" Let him go physically and emotionally so you can grow. You can make the choice now to remain bitter or get better. Don't allow your past pain to rob you of what God has predestined for you