Friday, February 14, 2014

It's life, it's love, it's joy, it's everything.

By the time you read this, Valentine's Day will have passed.

But fear not young lovers, for I design these thoughts to endure, like true love itself. Chocolate lays a credible claim to the title but for my purposes here, Cupid's award goes to another. Music, the food of love.

Anyone who ventures to this page will know within short order that, by "music," I refer to Reggae. The Jamaican sound calibrated to cardio, programmed to pulse and honed to the beat of your heart. That same organ used as the universal symbol for love.

Being a multi-faceted industry, well past infancy, there's a wide selection of Reggae extant. Genres and sub-genres, good and bad. Bad, "good" stuff and yes, even good, "bad"stuff. But the best of the product soothes the sensory like inevitable breeze, biding-up with the natural world.

There's Reggae for every occasion. This Valentine's Day is when I'll remember first hearing this new work from Tarrus Riley.

Reggae chromosomes regenerate themselves. Progeny of the music-form routinely carry on batons of their forebears. Tarrus has a foundation pedigree, which is hardly unique (Reggae heads will get the insider pun), but it's the select few who supersede the benchmarks of their lineage.

At once traditional and modern, experimental and respectful, the man also known as Singy-Singy, has found a commercially viable groove which will have broad appeal and attract new fans. Skit interludes and unaffected chat marry a contemporary approach to classy Rock Steady riddims. The glue is Riley's vocal excellence and topnotch Dean Fraser production.

A very early contender for next year's Grammy. This is one to seek out if you want to experience the feeling "upful," which no music delivers more comprehensively, for the whole soul, than Reggae.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Free February.

Black. History. Month. Three little words we link together in February, then not again until a year has transpired.

I dig history. No wonder I went on to study Archaeology. (allow me a little chuckle at that there petit-pun, and a hope the reader will accept my disarming icebreaker - as such.)

Couple things about history ... (1) it happened, and (2) there's an awful lot of it, with more made every day. It can be micro or macro, ipso and facto. And, it leaves clues in as wide a variety.

I got an early start on this season-of-reason by reading the story of Aminata Diallo, engagingly imagined around a lot of said clues, by renown Canadian author Lawrence Hill. In The Book Of Negroes, describing one woman's 18th-century lifetime, Hill paints a vivid context, collating history into a timeline today's knowledge-seeker can refer to.

The illustrated edition of this book should be in every library near you, though it was controversially re-titled Someone Knows My Name for America and certain other markets. Clearly, that word, Negro, used and abused, carries so much history that it can enter publishing-house boardrooms and reshape itself.

If you're putting off reading this book, or won't go see 12 Years A Slave, then the chances are excellent that you'll never see any of the films which have been pulled together for the 2nd annual staging of the Toronto Black Film Festival this February.

That, in itself, is justification for this focus on Black film. And also why I'll join a TBFF14 discussion panel on screen diversity.

Organisers Fabienne Colas and Emile Castonguay personify the scope of the programming. Inevitably there is copious intersection with non-Black historical and dramatic narratives - 'cos the world works that way.

While the fledgling TBFF14 takes foothold in this big film festival town, miles away they gear up for another. Los Angeles hosts the 22nd annual Pan African Film Festival which twice screens The Skin, a contemporary supernatural thriller from Antigua I appear in, and have previously written about.

Incidentally, February 6th is when we celebrate Bob Marley's birthday. Though, like the relevance of Black/African history,
I must confess, for me it's a year-round ting.