by Wanda Sabir
Mama Africa Miriam Makeba passes
Mama Miriam Makeba (March 4, 1942 to Nov. 10, 2008) suffered a heart attack while performing at a benefit concert in Southern Italy Nov. 10. She’d just sung her famous hit, “Pata Pata” and collapsed on stage. She recovered and then suffered a second heart attack, which proved fatal.
As I was going through old mail in a document search for Miriam Makeba, I ran across mail sent this summer, a compilation of great sayings. One of them was a “Makeba.” She said: “I look at a stream and I see myself: a native South African, flowing irresistibly over hard obstacles until they become smooth and, one day, disappear – flowing from an origin that has been forgotten toward an end that will never be.”
I remember seeing Miriam Makeba shortly before the first democratic election in South Africa at a club in San Francisco, then later at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. The first concert was well attended and she spoke of being 60 or so and looking forward to returning home after many years in exile to exercise her constitutional right to vote. The next time I saw her was in concert at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. The event was poorly attended and there were no CDs to purchase. She invited the folks in the balcony to move down to fill in the orchestra section – the sparse numbers didn’t deter enthusiasm in the audience or her performance.
The last time I saw her was at Stern Grove in San Francisco when she was on a world tour, with a new CD, the first in many years. I stood in line to get an autograph and noticed how weary she seemed to be off stage, contrasted with her enormous energy on stage. The band was tight and from many places in Southern Africa. I think she had a couple of grand kids in the band too. It was certainly a moment to treasure.
When Hugh Masekela speaks of her in his autobiography, it is with awe. He is her babysitter and eventually her husband – she sounds like the quintessential liberated woman. She took care of her countrymen and women, shared her resources with them: advice, money etc.
Sporting a close-cropped Afro long before it became fashionable, Mama Makeba never compromised her principles. One always knew where he allegiance lay. As President Nelson Mandela said in an article commemorating her life this week: “Her haunting melodies gave voice to the pain of exile and dislocation, which she felt for 31 long years. At the same time, her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us.” He said it was “fitting” that her last moments were spent on stage – singing at a concert in solidarity with six immigrants from Ghana who were shot to death in September in Southern Italy.
Read more at http://wandasabir.blogspot.com.
Listen to www.wandaspicks.asmnetwork.org for a great conversation this Wednesday, Nov. 12, with directors of the 3rd-I Film Festival, Anuj and Ivan, and director Mehreen Jabbar of “Ramchand Pakistani.” I also spoke to Kambale Musavuli, a member of www.friendsofcongo.org. Also visit www.congoweek.org.
Tomorrow, Nov. 15, is an international day of solidarity for the Congolese people. If one can’t give up one’s cell phone, she can educate her friends about the war there and our tacit responsibility as consumers in providing a market for the genocide harvested products.
Friday’s show, Nov. 14, featured an interview with members of Vukani Mawethu Choir (9:30-10:10 a.m.) on the eve of their 22nd Anniversary Gala, silent auction and awards ceremony, this year honoring Fania Davis. Visit www.vukani.org. The gala begins at 6-7 p.m. with a silent auction, followed by dinner and presentation and entertainment 7-10 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 27th and Harrison Street. I also had a great talk with artist Amana Johnson about the new San Francisco Art Commissioned sculpture at the Joseph P. Lee Recreation Center, Third and Newcomb. Also on the air with her was Jill Manson, director of public art for the commission (8:30-9 a.m.).
Tickets for Inauguration
Want to see the first Black President sworn in? Well, here are links to ticketing sources. The event is free but you need tickets. Here is how: www.inaugural.senate.gov.
Fashion Extravaganza for Social Change: ‘Seam of Consciousness’
Local women designers are hosting a fundraiser for Darfur Women’s Center, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2008. A fashion-dance show, special performance art, a silent auction, special guest speakers and music throughout the evening will raise awareness and funds for the center. See www.darfurpeaceanddevelopment.org/womens for more information.
“Seam of Consciousness” features designs and special performances by Kari Koller, Angela Dix, Rachel Znerold, Nikole Lent, Moriah Lueders, Jasmin Hoo, Roja and Lula Chapman and is the brainchild of fAction, a San Francisco fashion collective comprised of socially minded women designers and artists seeking to mobilize local community to create positive change worldwide.
The event is at the Box Factory, 865 Florida St. #1 in San Francisco. Doors open at 8 p.m., and the show is at 9 p.m. The cost is sliding scale $10-$20.
Darfur Committee Meeting and Update
Monday, Nov. 17, 1-3 p.m., the San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition will meet at 121 Steuart St., between Mission and Howard, San Francisco, in the second floor library. It’s near the BART-Muni Embarcadero stop; garage parking is nearby. The meeting is free and open to the public. All are welcome. Please bring a friend. To RSVP, call (415) 221-8400 to facilitate building security check-in.
Valerie Cooper sings
Valerie Cooper performs jazz, blues and pop songs on two Saturdays, Nov. 15 and 22, 2-4 p.m., with guitarist, Larry White at It’s a Grind Coffee House, 555 11th St. at Clay Street in Oakland, (510) 830-8665, www.myspace.com/valeriecoopergroup. There’s no cover.
‘With Head and Heart: The Life and Legacy of Howard Thurman’
Join OneLife Institute on Sunday, Nov. 16, at the Museum of the African Diaspora’s Sunday Salon series for “With Head and Heart: The Life and Legacy of Howard Thurman.” Dr. Thurman’s life and work reveal the powerful synergy between spirituality and social engagement, the inseparability of personal and social transformation. This post-election salon, timed to honor Thurman’s birthday, will consider the relevance of his wisdom for contemporary struggles and the journey ahead.
- 2:30 p.m.: Refreshments and viewing of Arleigh Prelow’s documentary short, “Howard Thurman: Spirit of a Movement”
- 3-5 p.m.: Lecture and discussion with excerpts from video interview “Conversations with Howard Thurman” facilitated by OneLife’s Dr. Liza Rankow. For directions and RSVP, go to www.moadfs.org. Museum admission is $10. The event is sponsored by OneLife Institute for Spirituality and Social Transformation, www.onelifeinstitute.org.
Conferences and Awards Galas
This is a busy weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area:
- Conference on Race Nov. 14-16 at the Marriott Convention Center in Oakland;
- the Green Festival Nov. 14-16 at the Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 Eighth St. at Brannan, San Francisco;
- Dimensions Dance Theatre 35th Anniversary Nov. 15, 8 p.m., at the Oakland Inter-Stake Center, next to the Mormon Temple, 4780 Lincoln Ave., Oakland; and
- Vukani Mawethu Choir’s Gala Dinner and first Community Awards Ceremony Nov. 15, 6 p.m., at the First Presbyterian Church, 27th and Broadway, Oakland.
The Vowel Movement and other shows at Ashkenaz
The Vowel Movement collective features some of the best performers of what some term the fifth element of hip hop, Beatboxing. Check them out at Ashkenaz Music and Dance Center, 1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, Friday, Nov. 14, 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and for students, $12 general admission. Visit www.ashkanez.com or call (510) 525-5054.
Two great shows, also at Ashkenaz: Kalbass Kreyol Saturday, Nov. 15, 9:30 p.m., 8 p.m. Kompa dance class; and Friday, Nov. 21, 9:30 p.m., Sila and the AfroFunk Experience plus DJ Jeremiah and the AfroBeat Nation.
Glen Washington and Ras Kidus and Undah P on Friday, Nov. 29, looks good. Afro-Polynesian singer Mahealani Uchiyama is coming Nov. 30. I’m trying to get her on my show. We’ll see. Stay posted.
La Peña Cultural Center presents the premier Bay Area presentation of Uruguayan Candombe music with Urubanda on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 8 p.m., $13 in advance, $15 at the door, at La Peña, 3105 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, (510) 849-2568, www.lapena.org. Direct from Uruguay are Master Candombe, drummer and director of Montevideo’s re-knowned group Mundo Afro, and Sergio Ortunio on tambor repique.
With Urubanda are Edgardo Cambon, lead vocals and percussion; Walter Gonzalez, tambor piano; Natalia Bernal, tambor chico and vocals; Jorge Dominguez, tambor chico; Marco Diaz, piano and trumpet; Jorge Pomar, bass; Hugo Wainzinger, guitar; plus Candombe rhythm drumming by Lonjas Del Golden Gate with additional drummers Ramón Farias, Jorge Otormin and Joni Custodio.
Amana Bremby Johnson’s ‘Time to Dream Unveiled’
The dedication and unveiling of Amana Bremby Johnson’s “Time to Dream Unveiled” will be held at the Joseph P. Lee Recreation Center, 1395 Mendell St., at Third and Oakdale, San Francisco, on Tuesday, Nov. 18, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. “Time to Dream” is a life-sized figure carved from a 3,000-pound block of basalt spring stone found only in Zimbabwe, Southern Africa.
The figure, which took Johnson over nine months to carve, is deliberately not identified as either male or female in order to be inspirational to all children. A circular bench of colored concrete, beautifully embellished with sculptural medallions, glass and ceramic tile, supports the sculpture. The figure holds an open book whose pages are engraved with an inspirational text by Johnson that reads, “We need time to dream, time to remember and time to create the world we envision.” Art is not optional – it is integral to community life and its sustainability. Visit www.sfartscommission.org/pubart.
KRS-One in Skoman ‘Build and They Will Come’ concert series
Hip Hop artist and spoken word sage KRS-One is in town this weekend for two concerts. Friday night, he’s at the Shattuck DownLow, 2284 Shattuck Ave., in Berkeley. The doors open at 9 p.m. Also on the bill are Mistah FAB, Mavrik, BoRat and DJ True Justice. Tickets are $25 in advance at ticketmaster.com. Saturday, Nov. 15, he’s at Blake’s on Telegraph, 2367 Telegraph Ave.. Friday night is 21-up and Saturday is 18-up. Tickets for Saturday are $20 presale at ticketweb.com.
Chuck D and MC Lyte
Chuck D and MC Lyte will be at EastSide Cultural Center Saturday, Nov. 15, 2-5 p.m. The venue is located at 2277 International Blvd. in Oakland.
Chuck D Party
On Saturday, Nov. 15, Chuck D returns to Oakland to host a show with local artists Suga-T, Spice 1, Eyezon and Jahi, who is on the SLAMjamz/Onefam label, and Crew Grrl Order in their first Bay Area appearance at the Uptown, 1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, (510) 451-8100. Tickets, which are $15 in advance and $20 at the door, are available at www.ticketweb.com. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The show starts at 9 p.m.
This man is committed to recording artists’ careers. Chuck D is collaborating with Jahi, who hosted the 2007 Public Enemy U.S. Tour, and is a featured MC in the new act “PE 2.0.” He is also a supporter of the Bay Area’s legendary performers Suga-T and Spice 1. Suga-T’s new project is “The Game Needs Me” and a television show titled “Hip Hop Moms.” Chuck D is the executive producer of Crew Grrl Order’s next CD and their documentary that is being filmed in the Bay area by Command Pictures.
For 20 years, Chuck D has been “Louder than a Bomb.” Emerging in the group Public Enemy, consisting of Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Terminator X, Professor Griff, the Bomb Squad and the S1Ws, defined hip-hop’s “Afrocentric Age” with a string of politically charged, sonically powerful, critically acclaimed and commercially successful classic albums, including “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” and “Fear of a Black Planet.” After 58 tours spanning 47 countries and over 1,300 shows, PE has earned a place as not just one of the greatest rap groups of all time, but one of the most seminal and influential artists to emerge in any genre.
The Green Festival in San Francisco, www.greenfestivals.org/media/, features many notable speakers, among them Dr. Cornel West, Chuck D, Amy Goodman, Winona LaDuke, Van Jones and Greg Palast. There also many workshops and hundreds of vendors. The festival is located at the San Francisco Concourse Exhibit Center, 685 Eighth St. at Brannan, and in the Gift Center Pavilion Theatre, 888 Brannan St., just up the street. Tickets are $15 for one day and $25 for all three. Friday, Nov. 14, the festival is open 12-7, Saturday 10-7 and Sunday 11-6.
3rd-I South Asian Film Festival runs Nov. 13-16 in San Francisco, with screenings at Brava Theatre Nov. 13-15 and Sunday, Nov. 16, at the Castro Theatre, both in San Francisco. Visit www.thirdi.org/festival/film/index_film.htm.
AXIS Dance Company’s 20th Anniversary Dance Concert
Axis Dance Company celebrates its 20th anniversary this weekend, Nov. 14-16, at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, 1428 Alice St., in downtown Oakland. There will be many world premieres. This theatre company is unique in its use of dancers with varying levels of mobility – those using assistive technology and those without. It is a poetically beautiful experience and I don’t know how I am going to fit, or how I can fit Axis into an already impossible schedule, but if I can, I will and if I can’t, I will rely on you to tell me about it. Tickets are $20 and $22 for Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday tickets are $10 for all seats. Visit www.axisdance.org or call (925) 798-1300.
Dimensions Dance Theater’s 35th Anniversary
DDT is pulling out all stops this weekend in a retrospective of work created over the company’s illustrious 35 years. The celebration takes place Saturday, Nov. 15, 8 p.m., at Oakland Inter-Stake Center, next to the Mormon Temple, 4780 Lincoln Ave., in Oakland. The evening also features special guests Khalil Shaheed and Band, plus Jacqueline Hairston and Larry Sampson.
Tickets need to be purchased in advance and can be bought at Marcus Bookstore, 3900 MLK Jr. Way in Oakland, (510) 652-2344 and www.ticketweb.com. Visit www.dimensionsdance.org for dress code information and directions or call (510) 465-3363.
San Francisco Bay Area Latino Film Festival
I just heard about the festival this week, so we’re coming in on closing week Nov. 23, but there are still some great films left in the festival line-up – well, maybe not. Just a quick perusal looked like all the Afro-Latino films are already past, films like “Uprooted” from Columbia and “Basic Sanitation: The Movie” from Brazil. I see a few from Cuba that might be cool, but I don’t know. Visit www.latinofilmfestival.org.
McCoy Tyner Trio with Marc Ribot and more at Yoshi’s
The veteran pianist McCoy Tyner is coming to town Nov. 18-23 for an extended visit at Oakland Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero West. He has a new CD out too, which I need to listen to again before I make any comments (smile). So check out our brother, one of the only working artists left who lived through bop and still knows how to swing and play the blues. Visit www.yoshis.com or call (510) 238-9200.
I missed Preservation Hall Jazz Band Monday night, but I caught Cyro Baptista and Banquet of the Spirits after I left the Van Jones event at First Congregational Church, Tuesday, Nov. 11. Everyone who was hip and cool and on the right lists was there. I wasn’t on any, but I happen to listen to KPFA enough to hear announcements of their events. Alice Walker was there, Bobby Seale, Barbara Lee opened for Jones, as did Aya de Leon and Danny Glover. Glover’s recitation of the Langston Hughes’ poem about America was moving.
So I headed over to Yoshi’s on my way home and got waylaid by this band, a Banquet of the Spirits. I felt bad that I’d missed the funeral of my Brother Benjamin Ahmed Sunday, Nov. 9, because no one told me, and the one call received came a day too late. I was also thinking about veterans, the ones who made the ultimate sacrifice, and how little mind is paid to the loss to our collective family is one life taken or sacrificed needlessly.
I was in the groove for some deep channeling. Deep is not necessarily what I got. The band was funky and lots of fun as Cyro Baptista, Brazilian percussionist, played all kinds of percussion and sang along with a very talented trap drummer who played the ngoni kabir, ankle shakers and sang. The bassists also played an oud and the pianist played a keyboard he also blew into. It was wild, wildly fun. I have to get their CD.
Oh, Eric Benet is coming in at the end of the month in Oakland, Nov. 28-30, and Tuck and Patty are bringing in the holiday season in the San Francisco club, 1330 Fillmore, Nov. 28-30. Bela Fleck and the Flecktones’ “Holiday Tour” with Victor Lemonte Wooten, Future Man and Jeff Coffin are at the San Francisco Club, Nov. 18-23. I’ve heard of Bela Fleck but have never seen him before. The draw for me is Wooten, who is an awesome bassist and human being also. Visit www.yoshis.com.
‘Angry White Boy’ extended a week
“Angry Black White Boy” sold out and has been extended an extra week: Thursday-Sunday, Nov. 19-Nov. 23. Featuring Myers Clark, Keith Pinto, Tommy Shepard and Dan Wolf, Wolf’s adaptation for stage of Adam Manbach’s novel is a look at race and class in America from a perspective not seen often enough. Manbach and by extension Wolf take Tim Wise’s observation and recast them in a catchy irresistible guise. The audience might resist but is affected nonetheless.
The intimate 90-seat theatre is the perfect setting for a topic that even a Black president-elect can’t solve overnight. I mean, really, it took over 500 years of incessant programming from religious and cultural indoctrination and miseducation to economic and social exclusion to get here in the first place. It’s at Intersection for the Arts at 446 Valencia St. between 15th and 16th in San Francisco’s Mission District. For information, call (415) 626-3311. Visit www.theintersection.org. The tickets sell out fast. Reserve on-line.
Three events at Marcus Books
There are some great author events this weekend at Marcus, two on the same day at the same time: Congresswoman Barbara Lee, “Renegade for Peace and Justice,” and Terri McMillan with a sneak preview of her sequel to “Waiting to Exhale: Getting Too Happy.” The Lee event is at the San Francisco store, 1712 Fillmore, (415) 346-4222, Nov. 16 at 2:30 p.m., and the McMillan event is at the East Bay Church of Religious Science, 4130 Telegraph Ave., in Oakland at 3 p.m., also on Nov. 16. Both are free.
Saturday evening at the Oakland Store, 3900 MLK Jr. Way, Robert Greer is back with another mystery novel, “Blackbird, Farewell,” a CL Floyd Mystery. This event is at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15.
Judy Juanita and Cathleen Riddley in ‘Counter-Terrorism’
Homeless, pontificating Ann (Cathleen Riddley) invades the mind of educated, shopaholic Tylea (Judy Juanita) in this two-woman play about identity, sexuality and acknowledging “the other” in troubled times, directed by directed by Jayne Wenger. Judy Juanita’s “Counter-Terrorism” was a Bay Area Playwrights Festival 2004 winner. Her plays include “Theodicy,” first runner-up in the 2007 Eileen Heckart Senior Drama Play Contest at Ohio State; “Heaven’s Hold,” Brava Theatre and 2001 National Black Theater Festival; “Knocked Up,” a commedia dell’arte she co-wrote about RU-486 which tours periodically with the SF Mime Troupe; and farces “Famine,” “The History of Sweat” and “Samaritan-ism,” Julia Morgan Theater, Berkeley. She received an MFA from San Francisco State University.
Cathleen Riddley, an alumna of the Juilliard School Drama Division, stars in “The America Play” at Thick Description this month. She has also appeared at Magic Theatre, TheatreWorks, MTC, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, A.C.T., Willows Theatre Company and Center Rep. As vocalist for Sweetie Pie and the Doughboys, she belts out Blues, Rock n’ Roll and R&B.
The show is Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m., at The Marsh in San Francisco, 1062 Valencia St. near 22nd Street. All seating for this performance is first-come, first-served. The 60-minute show is for patrons 14 and older. Tickets are $10-$15 sliding scale.
Eugene Ionesco’s ‘Victim of Duty’
This is one play where less said is best. I can’t really explain the play. I’d certainly recommend reading it, but then I’d also say this is a play one wants to see, and Rob Melrose is really good at staging these difficult to imagine works. This play, called absurdist, is no different, and the actors, especially Felicia Benefield as Madeline, whom I last saw as a principal character in an equally difficult, just in a different way, Suzan Lori-Parks work with David Skillman, and actor David Sinaiko is also great as Cloubert.
OK, so what’s it about? Cloubert and Madeline, a Parisian couple, are relaxing after dinner, perhaps reading together on the sofa, her legs on her husband’s lap, when knocking is heard across the hallway. They don’t worry about answering until the knocking is heard on their door. It is an inspector and he is invited in over the husband’s nonverbal objections. After this, everything kind of dissolves into this weird intersection between realism and the subterranean abstract -a realm Ionesco opens to his characters to give his audience access to areas of consciousness one dare not explore for the shear messy dirtiness of the journey. Return trips not guaranteed.
So after the journey, one without intermission, I stayed for the talk back hosted by the dramaturge, Nakissa Etemad, just because the walk to The Exit Theatre on Taylor is a surreal enough experience without topping it with an existential theatre experience.
Though sleepy when I arrived – not enough oxygen to the brain – the cashews and bananas purchased on Eddy helped, or was it Ellis? I forget. Anyway, I could follow the story but it helped to know that “Victim of Duty” was Ionesco’s favorite play and that it was autobiographical, so the insertions were basically the writer trying to resolve his father/mother nation/state patriotism/betrayal issues. Such monologues often make complete sense only to the storyteller. It’s almost like reading someone’s diary that they left out on purpose; they wanted to be found out. One needs to keep one’s judgment suspended.
Although I thought Cloubert’s subterranean adventures and reflections were some of the more substantive and invitingly philosophically witty and deep aspects of the play, I could actually identify with the character here and when he was on stage in a theatre – don’t ask me how. I grew annoyed with the patron who was impatient with his brooding contemplation – I’ve known people like her. She brings out the snob in me. Yes, I admit is. There is theatre etiquette.
Of course everyone – fictional and real – wants to kill the voice, the echoes of the subconscious he can’t control, the voice of dissent, the critic. The detective character is this critic and the fact that Madeline and Cloubert were just talking about his love or obsession with theater and her love or obsession with film and Cloubert’s view that the genre lacks fresh ideas is an interesting intro or prelude into their own sitcom where the play is the thing and it’s real and they are the stars, the critic also the executioner.
You can see how “Victims of Duty” lends itself to endless explanatory prose, so let me stop and give you the logistics and details: The theatre is located in the heart of absurdity or existentialist reality – if there is such a thing – the Tenderloin. Take a friend to the theatre with you, especially if you are a woman and it’s nighttime. Don’t carry a shoulder bag or dress too flashy. That said, Cutting Ball Theatre, the resident theatre company at The Exit Theatre on Taylor, is located at 277 Taylor, between Eddy and Ellis, up from the Powell Street BART Station in San Francisco. Visit www.cuttingball.com or call (800) 838-3006. The play runs Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m. through Nov. 23. Tickets are $15-$30.
I have never seen a production here that was not well directed with a cast of superb artists. In “Victim of Duty,” the principals, Felicia Benefield and especially David Sinaiko and Ryan Oden as the Detective, outdo themselves, especially David, whose character is climbing up mountains, swimming in mud and tunneling though the earth trying to find an elusive person called Mallot with a “t.”