Monthly Archives: April 2012

Mixtape Monday: Diasporic Movement

In May, Sonic Diaspora celebrates its one-year anniversary!!! In that year, We’ve laid a strong foundation for what We hope becomes a powerful force for uniting positive people around the music and struggles of African people throughout the world. Being rooted in social justice communities and ideals, We want to make sure that Sonic Diaspora maintains its relevance. If you don’t know the purpose behind Sonic Diaspora, you can view it here. [It’s all about MOVEMENT… movement of peoples across geographic terrains; movement on the dance floor, and movement against oppression.] As you consider what’s written, please enjoy the most recent Sonic Diaspora mix. Then let us know what you think!

Artwork by People’s DJs member, Itzi Nallah

I, personally, would like to know what Y.O.U. think of the event, the mixes, and the developing social-political purpose. With whom should Sonic Diaspora build solidarity (other African & Diasporic music parties, artists, political struggles and organizations, African culture organizers, etc)? How can We make the social-political aspect more visible within the dance parties? Do you think the music (in the mixes and dance parties) is reflective of the larger purpose?

We greatly appreciate your input!

– Much Love

Ol’ Skool Sunday: 96º

I was blessed to catch legendary Reggae group, Third World, perform here in Philly (Ghost was the opening act)!  It was, without a doubt, one of the best performances i’ve ever seen. They blew me away with the perfect arrangement of music, well-executed solos (Cat Coore’s cello rendition of “Redemption Song” was too fantastic for words), and infectious energy that had everyone in Trocadero Theatre dancing! I guess that’s what 38 years of experience does for a group! Here are a few musical highlights.

– Much Love

Liberation Culture: Fashioning A Comprehensive Approach

Sometimes incidents like the recent Trayvon Martin killing become opportunities for social justice and civil rights groups to mobilize mass meetings and demonstrations that challenge the continued pervasiveness of racialized violence. It saddens me that We live in such a violent society that it takes massive amounts of angry people to prompt investigations around such injustices. My sadness is compounded by the frustration i experience when conversations and demands stimulated by the violence against Black youth and adults are framed narrowly due to (hetero)sexism [click HERE for an explanation of heterosexism], regionalism, class, and many other oppressive “common sense” ideologies that guide our daily thinking.

Recently, filmmaker and cultural worker, Aishah Shahidah Simmons, published a series of articles challenging the narrowly constructed framework for understanding and reacting to violence perpetuated against Black bodies. Her series questions why We (social justice oriented people of all backgrounds) tend to react with righteous indignation in the wake of the assaults, incarcerations, and murders of assumed heterosexual Black men, but do not place the same energy in addressing assaults, incarcerations, and murders of Black women and girls, trans folk, and queer Black (wo)men.

I must point out that she seemed to hesitate even raise to the question, because it might not be “the right time” (during Sexual Assault Awareness Month) and because by suggesting that We should equally regard all violence against innocent people, she might experience some backlash. BACKLASH. Why? Well, because seemingly heterosexual men have a value in this society, even amongst justice seeking and peace loving people. There is much more to her articles, and i strongly encourage everyone to read and discuss them.

I want to use this space to briefly reflect on Simmons’ suggestion that We rethink the idea that We can only focus on one (i.e. the most important) issue at a time as We try to create a more humane world. As i read the articles, i began to think about my own perception of who/what is “worthy” of my active participation. With whom do i speak in solidarity? Why? I quickly realized that i perpetuate some of the problems Simmons writes about in her articles. For example, i used to participate in workshops dedicated to encouraging men and boys to become active agents in the struggle against gendered violence. However, even in those spaces (some for which i was facilitator), it was almost impossible for me to understand (and even care about) how sexual assault against women and girls (or rape culture more broadly) is connected at the roots with homophobia and transphobia. When i finally accepted that and became an open ally to queer and trans folks, i noticed more connections and silences.

The most recent one with which i’ve struggled and am thinking through deals with region: of the recent incidents that gained significant attention, where did these incidents take place? How did the location factor into the response? Interestingly, the incidents that generated the most widespread and thorough responses (from what i could tell) took place in the south. For example, on the March 21, 2012 an off-duty police officer, Dante Servin, shot and killed Rekia Boyd in Chicago. Less than 2,000 people have signed the petition to prosecute Servin for murdering Boyd, a situation that is frigteningly similar to the petition on behalf of Ms. Nafissatou Diallo (New York)[see “Who Will Revere US” part 2].

I am not suggesting that region alone determines the reaction. Instead, region, gender, sexuality, age, and a whole list of other factors work together to produce certain responses in each of us. Those responses are engineered by a misguided, but pervasive, framework that creates a hierarchy of worth and determines whose oppression is more important. Because of that, We’re likely to see a greater response to injustices against Black men and boys than Black women and girls, regardless of what region they are located (Think Howard Morgan [Chicago] and Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. [White Plains, NY]).

It is time (really, it’s way past time) that We (social justice oriented people of all backgrounds) understand oppression as web of injustices that depend on each other for their survival. Therefore, when We address racial profiling (for example), We should understand how it affects people disproportionately depending on what their presumed class position, apparent gender and sexuality, locale, and more. The problems are multidimensional and our approach to addressing them should be as comprehensive as possible.

– Much Love

Tru Skool Tuesday: Satisfactory Props

I listen to a lot of music (duh statement of the century, right?), and sometimes i listen to music i don’t like all that much. After a period of immersing myself in a pool of music that is okay at best, i must baptize my ears in the songs that i consider my bar for critiquing all other tunes. This round has been filled with some hip hop goodies i collected back in the all-vinyl days. Check them out and enjoy!

– Much Love

Okay, so maybe this isn’t one of my (not-so-)dusty 12-inches. But, i’ve kinda got an unintentional Philly theme going and want to continue with it. Plus, the track is dope!

Time to abandon the 215 theme and get back to my original idea: This record, in particular, has been in my ears and mouth:

Mixtape Monday: Afri-disiacs

Welcome to Monday… the beginning of a new work week! To help you start your week on the right foot, check out these two great mixes from two fantastic DJs!

The first come from DJ Ruckus, and features some great soulful tracks that’ll soften the blow of the Monday blues. Click on the picture to listen.

Next, is a mix coming in from Jack Rooster of Nairobi, Kenya! It features deep, soulful house grooves, and will have you dancing in your office, cubical, studio, etc! Click on the picture to listen.

Ol’ Skool Sunday: A Throwback Holiday

I don’t think that i’ve ever been much of a Madonna fan. However, growing up a music fiend in the 80s and 90s, it’s practically impossible to not know and appreciate some of her more successful tracks. And because it’s not frequent that artists from “back in the day” continue to hold some pop relevance, i tip my hat and hope you enjoy these tracks along with your Sunday!

– Much Love

Get Familiar Episode 10: M. Josephine

Jersey City.  It’s the State of New Jersey’s second largest city, and it sits between Newark (NJ’s first largest city) and the Hudson River. On the other side of the Hudson is the “Big Apple.” Now that the geography lesson is complete, please allow me to introduce you to M. Josephine, also known as Mary, a singer with emcee ability, a lover of nature and humanity, and a proud Jersey City native.

M. Josephine’s first encounter with music began at the tender age of 5 when Kindergarten Choir Teacher, Ms. Small, called Mary’s mom to her office revealing her musical gift. “My mom had no idea what to expect to hear. When a teacher calls a parent requesting to meet, it usually means trouble,” says the singer. But it actually turned out to be the opposite of mom’s expectations.   Up until the age of 9, Mary’s mom organized with several Senior Citizen parties booking young Mary to sing what mainly consisted of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey classics.  The party guests enjoyed her so much that the performances resulted in money on the floor. Her mother ensured that it became a regularly scheduled event.

A variety of sounds and cultures that were present in Jersey City had a formative impact on her.  Her brother introduced her to Hip Hop, Salsa, and many more sounds. Mary became particularly attached to groups like A Tribe Called Quest and Groove Theory, as well as artists like KRS-ONE, Sade, Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige, and Chaka Khan. The emcees, especially, inspire her to produce. “[T]here is something magical about a dope emcee/rapper that can deliver heavy truth, dope lyrics with a one of a kind delivery.”

She is also inspired by life and the struggles of her community and surroundings.  The injustices she has endured provide her with plenty of subject matter to guide her pen.  Growing up in a single mother household, she never knew her father and experienced poverty as a child. “A lot motivate me as an artist and compel me to write and sing.” Her love for family, overcoming obstacles, and a passion for community development provide inspiration for new music and has steered Mary to work for a not-for-profit organization called “Rising Tide Capital” which seeks to empower distressed, urban communities.

Listening to M. Josephine’s music, it’s clear how her sounds reflect her experiences growing up in Jersey City and being exposed to a diverse community that introduced her to cultures from all over the world. “I [like] to personalize my music in hopes that it speaks to someone who can relate to the songs and feel empowered from them. The theme and message that connects my work tends to be about love and awareness (social or self-awareness).” Songs like “Push On” and “Apoco” are clear examples of this message. “Push On” borrows the instrumental from one of my favorite Soulaquarian creations, “Didn’t Cha Know.” To compliment the fantastic music, Mary vows to tap into her own inner strength as she struggles to be herself in a society that encourages people to sell their souls.  It is a soulful tribute to Ms. Badu and many of Mary’s other Hip Hop and R&B inspiration, as well as a message of self-love that many people would benefit from internalizing.

“Apoco” is a direct challenge to systems of oppression and the boundaries of sound that box artists into genres.  This track points out the disparities between those who have and those who have not within the context of environmental, political, and social ills that We (society) must address before it is too late.  Mary’s use of “the walls keep tumbling down” in her refrain gives her message a fire and brimstone feel that compliments the heavy metal feel of the drums, and synthesized violin and piano loops that are prominent in the song’s melody.

Another notable song (out of several that should be mentioned) is “Death Up In Me Pouch,” which features Ysrayl. This song is a nod to both Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (“Anikulapo” means death in my pouch) and Bob Marley, from whom producer DJ Irs likely found instrumental inspiration.

M. Josephine is currently working on a number of great projects. One is Donut Soul, an EP paying tribute to legendary producer, J. Dilla.  She is working to release this project on April 23, 2012. Mary is also working on a currently untitled project with her producer, co-writer, and “spiritual equal,” DJ Irs, which should be available by the end of 2012.

Dream collaborations include KRS-ONE, emcees Yaasin Bey and Q-Tip, as well as Erykah Badu, Zap Mama, and Cee-Lo Green. She is always open to building with other artists and producers about potential projects, so if you dig her music, be sure to reach out. You can do so by emailing her at musicbymjs@gmail.com and by connecting via Facebook and/or Tumbler.  Tweeters can drop a line as well to @MJosephineMusic.