LIGHT UP YOUR SCREENS, IT’S REGGAE MONTH!
Nicole will recommend some seductive Mardi Gras listening and viewing below, and I would like to throw in my too sense. I’ve checked out Criterion TV before, at her urging, and found it to be thought-provoking, well-curated films, interviews, docs and music, and pretty addicting. As with everything, not every offering was my cuppa tea but if I kept watching or came back, they pulled me back in again.
None of these “channels” are strictly music, they mix it up, and I like that. My good friend Tom Linton, a lifelong travel industry pro who has been affectionately dubbed by Jamaicans “the Minister of Travel,” sent to Nicole and me the link to a February-long celebration of the island’s top export, reggae music. It’s from the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, and I wish the USA had more “government” like that. Making a few appearances throughout is the Hon. Olivia “Babsy” Grange, whose official title is Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport — you rock (steady), Babsy! President Joe, THAT is a new cabinet post that we need!
THE PEOPLE DESERVE MUSIC
In the mid-’70s when I was criss-crossing Europe by campervan, my first major urban stop was Copenhagen and I was thrilled to discover that legendary jazz bassist Charles Mingus was performing in a small club that night — until I got a look at the price of a ticket. It was definitely not in my budget for my year long journey. But then a nearby local, noting my disappointment, offered, “Well, don’t worry, it will be broadcast live on the national TV network.” I was delighted, but as an American, was floored. Your government is broadcasting Charles Mingus into homes and bars? My government doesn’t even know who he is.
At that time and earlier, of course, England had some really groovy music shows too, government sponsored. Here in the Land of Capitalism Is King, Ford or Marlboro decide if you get music shows or not. But no Mingus from a cool club stage, no jazz at all. You can have the bands Dick Clark chooses, lip syncing, or Lawrence Welk. Art, and especially music, has never been considered a human necessity in America, despite all studies finding otherwise. Only a tolerated indulgence. Or even, subversive.
SANTA MONICA COULD LEAD
I’ve been saying for many years, as has Phil Brock (but now a City Council member), that Santa Monica is oozing artists and especially musicians, and we should have a city government that promotes and capitalizes on that. We should become known as the SoCal city with its own live soundtrack, music everywhere, all the time, outdoors and in, day and night. Who doesn’t love some kind of music?
We need to bring the economy back, but not in the same way. The Arts are a clean industry. Stop all the construction!! It would bring people, the right kind of tourists and probably the right numbers of them, who would want to stroll around (when things get back to normal), in our great weather year-round, see what we’ve got, listen and look, do some shopping and dining, not just grab a new Gucci and split. Austin puts bands in their airport. I think we can do even better than that.
We’ve already got a high quality TV studio here. I used to use public access studios here and in Eagle Rock, in the ‘90s. to produce my Not Just Another LA Music Show, 75 of ‘em. Live performers, and interviews. I had cajun accordion man Geno Delafose, the late lamented Blazers, the English Beat with Dave Wakeling (dropped down from his longtime home in Pacific Palisades), recently passed Simon Stokes, and Brantley Kearns, Yes-King Crimson drum god Bill Bruford, Dr. Yacub & the Cave Dwellers (parts of Fishbone), Wild Man Fischer (only his second TV appearance, after Laugh In many years before), and former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor, twice. No budget, a volunteer staff, old studios and equipment.
Someone (not me) could do so much better with our setup here. Get a syndication deal, go nation-wide — international! — build our rep, draw bigger and bigger artists and the people who want to see them. And stop the overdevelopment!!
HERE’S YOUR REGGAE MONTH LINK
Jamaica Cultural Development Commission is broadcasting live video on Reggae Month TV 6th Feb 2021, and every day in Feb.
Just go in and explore. They’re livestreaming about 4-5 hours every day, but it’s all archived so you haven’t missed a thing. It’s a treasure chest of delights — no, 28 of them. You don’t have to be a reggae fan, or know anything about it. If you watch a while it’s like going to Jamaica. You can really get a sense of the people and their culture, not just the music, which of course is superb. I’ve been to Jamaica four times, once not even for a music festival, and it is one of my favorite places on earth, and I love the people there. They are, overwhelmingly, kind and generous to a fault. Jamaica is poor in capital but so rich in humanity.
NOT TOO LATE FOR MARDI GRAS — Mardi gras was just a couple days ago, but it’s not too late to celebrate! I recently watched Les Blank’s “Always For Pleasure” (1978), a very special documentary about social traditions in New Orleans filmed around the time of Mardi Gras. In typical Les Blank fashion, it captures not just the traditions, but the feeling of that time and place.
The film can be viewed online with a Criterion Collection subscription (https://www.criterion.com/films/28658-les-blank-always-for-pleasure), or you can rent it from Cinefile (https://www.cinefilevideo.com), or if you are dying to catch even just a glimpse, there are several scenes on youtube. I would highly recommend searching for The Wild Tchoupitoulas clip for some great music, incredible costumes, and a little social history.
While you’re on youtube, check out the live studio performance of Dr. John with The Meters and Professor Longhair in 1974 (https://youtu.be/-x7CNYQ2j_w). And if you want to immerse not only your ears but also your tongue, how about a fried oyster and barbecue shrimp po’boy with a side of beignets and chicory black coffee, from LA’s critically acclaimed Little Jewel of New Orleans, in Chinatown. (http://littlejewel.la).
Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!
Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 3,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org