How many of you use a map while seeking to "explore" on your travels? If you have read some of my previous blog postings you know that I have mixed feelings towards maps (see psychogeography). Basically, I don't always want to know where I am going. Despite these feelings I will often spend several hours on the weekend reading through an atlas imagining where I would like… Continue
My wife had one wish this year. She wished for it over and over again. She would watch "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance" night after night. Afterwards, she would swoop into the room (where I was diligently working on this site) and plead with me. "John, will you take dancing lessons with me?" And over and over… Continue
Dancing Out of Bali. John Coast. Periplus Books. 1954. Reprinted in 2004, with a foreword by Sir David Attenborough.
I read this book on my way back to New York from Bali in summer 2008 after spending three weeks at the Cudamani Summer Institute with my wife. I have been reminded of it by our friends at Cudamani who have just notified us of their… Continue
There seems to be a close similarity between the body of music known as New Orleans Jazz and what is known as West Indian, Caribbean and/or Calypso music, but which represents musical characteristics associated with Creole culture in the Caribbean. The melodic and harmonic ties are there, but the strongest ties are reflected in the use of the same rhythmic patterns in both geographic areas - in fact, exactly the same rhythmic patterns, and combinations of rhythmic patterns.
"Throw Down Your Heart" follows American banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck on his journey to Africa to explore the little known African roots of the banjo and record an album. I was turned on to this film when Culturalist@s Jeremy and Linda Beck attended the red carpet premiere as guests of Béla… Continue
I read this book for my extraordinary "Tourist Performances" class with the eminent Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett at New York University's Performance Studies program a couple of years back, and have fished it out recently to re-read some of the fun and really unusual stories. This is a must-read for anyone interested in looking deeper at what can happen- or what happens… Continue
If you are planning a trip to Africa and/or just want to increase your familiarity with the continent's music and culture we suggest two sites that we have recently become fans of. Voice of America's "African Music Treasure" goes to great lengths to provide cultural context with its music samples. This we greatly appreciate. For example, below is the opening of a recent posting from… Continue
In 2005 for the World Festival of Sacred Music-LA, we brought Chirgilchin, a group of throat singing musicians, to Los Angeles. They performed at the opening concert, outdoors, under the fall equinox moon. It was extraordinary... and made me want to learn more about throat singing and the culture of Tuva. The film… Continue
This article, published on November 18th in the New York Times, examines cultural exchanges with Cuba. I was in Havana and Santiago in 2002 with Global Exchange and had mixed feelings about the trip. We want to know what you think about the article and Cuba. Have you visited the country? Were you part of a "cultural exchange"? Is it time for the U.S. to allow visitors? Or is the embargo working and necessary? See excerpts from the… Continue
New Orleans played a large part in why I wrote a book on the greatest figure in all of Cuban music. It was something of an accident that sent me on the search for Benny Moré, a chance hearing of Qué Bueno Baila Usted, one of the best songs to come from any recording studio on the island of Cuba. Throughout her history, New Orleans had lots of cultural contact with her old penpal, Havana. Trading between these Caribbean sister cities included French opera, brass band instruments left over from… Continue
My mother taught me from the time I was a little girl that sometimes shutting out the world and letting the rhythm of a great song move your spirit is a sure way to heal the soul. Think about it, even if you’re in a horrible mood, you can put on your favorite tune, dance your heart out, and feel much better afterwards.
I have been dancing professionally for ten years with a traditional West African dance group called Iwa Lewa Heritage Dance Ensemble. We perform mostly in New Jersey… Continue
flip a coin 25 times to determine your path. take the subway to chinatown in whatever town you are in and begin exploring. if you flipped heads take a right and proceed one block before either taking a right (heads) or a left (tails). write down the names of the streets you turn on and your stream of conscious observations as you explore. post them in a reply to this discussion and i will use them in my next art show (with your permission). to read more about my experience with psychogeography… Continue
I was born in 1948 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. As a child I already wanted to become an artist, but I lost this confidence when I was getting older. Being an artist seemed a very insecure position so I tried something close to it: going into advertising. This didn’t work because I have no commercial talent. Then in 1972 I decided to study Social Pedagogy with the idea to specialize for becoming a… Continue
Don Maya asks me one simple question as I stand on the other side of a volcanic stone wall that separates us and our two worlds, “ What is it you want to know from me?” He is a direct, no-nonsense type of man, very real. I had come to Mexico to learn from those who lived life here, those who were connected to the land and were a part of the “handed-down knowledge” I had read about. Up until now, all my learning and education came from books. I read about the culture and the people of Mexico. It… Continue
every day, i go to my day job. i never call in sick and i rarely take vacation. for better, and probably worse, it’s what i do…it’s how i was raised. and, every day that i go to the day job, i go the same way….i take the same route almost every single time. once i’m at the train station, i almost always get on the first car….and i always get out at the same train station and trudge the same path to work, where i sit at the same cubicle....day in and day out.
poem for Cape Town. white
cottony waves (like fluffy cash
crop your cousins gleaned from southern
plantations), they crash
extremities of Earth, so glad
not to be
mutilated and reformed
by toughened brown
hands into bricks (subjugated
people suffer alongside desecrated
land unless settler capital
decrees a national park, meaning (for nations
of Capital, that is (not-brown nations), living
I spent last saturday at home in the d.c. area with my parents. i hitched a ride down 95 with my old friend sean. it was the kind of ride where springsteen’s “glory days” was relevant and played on the radio as we talked about the good times we had growing up. i swear, many a classic car from our youth (ford ltd classic, ford taurus classic, honda accord classic-i lived in a fancy neighborhood) drove by as the song blared. the drivers let their cigarettes burn as their voices sang at the top of… Continue
This is something I wrote in a stream of consciousness a while back and that I just found...
May 7, 2007
A day after voting in the French presidential election (by proxy), I took and passed my US citizenship test today. Within 24 hours, I managed to demonstrate my singular national allegiance to two countries. This is besides the fact that my current status in the US is as an Indian-named British citizen…
7.45am. Downtown Manhattan. Sitting on the… Continue
i've recently returned from a short trip to london with amy. we spent 4 days determined to pack as much “culture” into the trip as possible. i wanted to stuff my face with local delicacies, drink ale until it came out of my nose, then walk it off all over the city while talking to people, exploring the parks, pubs, markets, music, and museums.
day 1: first stop the tate modern via the thames south bank river walk. fresh off the red eye, i took the spanish waitresses advice and went… Continue