Music

This article originally appeared in inspiredgroundproject.com

The powerful may be able to rip out one, two or maybe three roses. But, they will never be able to stop the arrival of Spring

– Lula Da Silva

A Busker’s Tale

It’s only fitting that the man who was eventually adjudicated the song rights to Hey Joe was busking in New York Citywhen he claimed it as his own, after a usurper had been collecting the royalties on the already popular tune. But, that was four years before Jimi Hendrix branded it with his indelible mark, launching the bluesy melody into the rock and roll stratosphere.

Billy Roberts is said to have written the song while playing on the streets of Greenwich Village in the early 60’s, but an ex-girlfriend would later throw her hat into the authorship controversy ring by stating that she had, in fact, penned the ditty herself, which she called “Baby, Please Don’t Go To Town”.

FILE PHOTO – Niela Miller (aka Niela Halleck), Billy Robert’s former girlfriend who claimed authorship of Hey Joe under the name “Baby, Please Don’t Go To Town”

Regardless of who wrote the initial version, Hendrix would make a seemingly minor change to the lyrics – to go along with his haunting interpretation – that would crystalize it into one of the most searing bit of musical pulp fiction ever performed.

Guns, Money and the 60’s

We can’t be sure of what motivated Jimi Hendrix to swap the word “money” for “gun” in the opening line of Hey Joe. Perhaps, it was simply a case of a word flowing better with the music. But, we can’t ignore how that tiny modification transformed the story told in the song, making it a much more visceral experience and painting Joe as a far more violent character than originally intended.

What was not in doubt was the mood of the country in the mid 1960’s, coming off the trauma of a President shot in cold blood and the ramping up of the conflict in Vietnam. The anti-war movement, along with militant minority groups like the Black Panthers and the Native American Red Power movement, showed American awareness of state-sponsored violence to be at fever pitch. Hendrix’s recasting of Hey Joe at such a pivotal point would prove to be a cool metaphor about very hot button issues, which were not limited to the United States, alone.

Worldwide Mutiny

Hendrix’s first hit single as part of the Jimi Hendrix Experience trio, “Hey joe”, reached the top 10 in England’s music charts and took off from there to influence the way the song has been interpreted by the myriad artists who jumped on the bandwagon over the following years.

The song was released in the Autumn of 1966 and the musical prodigy would perform his extraordinary version in front of stunned peers from the Beatles, Rolling Stones and others at London’s Bag O’Nails.

In less than two years, massive student protests would erupt in London, across Europe and the world over matters of social justice and escalating political tensions. Songs like Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” set the tone for an increasingly restless and unapologetic youth, that was unafraid to ask Uncle Sam and his family members where ‘he’ was going with that “gun”.

The socially-motivated artistic effervescence that flourished in the latter part of the 60’s produced much of the music we still listen to today; an age of comparative conformity stunted creativity within the realm of musical creation.

Banned Lyrics

The music industry, in particular, has a pretty sordid past and a not-so-clean present. The business side of things was controlled by the mob from its earliest days, when the Chicago mafia ran the jukebox racket and most of the bars and clubs where crooners and divas performed. It was organized crime that determined who got radio-play and sold more records throughout much of the 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s.

Legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix (Linda McCartney/National Portrait Gallery/Smithsonian Institution)

But, the unique circumstances that came together in the latter half of the 20th century as people took hold of their own power, produced a cascade of artistic expression so threatening to the powers-that-be, it had to be systematically suppressed and rooted out.

The explosion of creative agency that Hendrix and many others asserted during the late 60’s and 70’s left a body of incredible artistic work, that should have only grown in scope but was, instead, overtaken by a series of direct attacks by conservative forces upon the Humanities and art disciplines in universities and society, in general.

The mob, itself, would be phased out of the music business and supplanted with an even more ruthless corporate power structure, that has condensed music to algorithmic formulae and quarterly earnings projections. Artists with a message are shunned, if not blacklisted. Music from the heart is too risky for the bottom line and the party line.

FILE PHOTO – Billy Roberts, who is widely credited with writing the original “Hey Joe”.

Creative Revival

Nothing beyond the most banal entertainment is permitted to find daylight, because any reflection on the actual state of the world and society threatens to pierce a hole in a carefully crafted fiction, which pretends drone strikes and white phosphorous are rooted in some sort of ethical principle.

The persistence of life, however, cannot be suppressed forever. The seedling will sprout in the smallest crevice between slabs of concrete, like a busker on the sidewalk singing from his soul. So, next time you walk past someone strumming that guitar or blowing into that sax on your way to work, stop and listen, because that’s the sound of life trying to break free.

Yesterday, one of the more obscene spectacles in American Television culture took place right here in Miami and at halftime, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira took center stage at Hard Rock stadium, whereupon a tinderbox of moral outrage exploded on Twitter from self-appointed arbiters of decorum in America, decrying the impiousness of these two half breeds who dared to expose the innocent gaze of our children to their depraved, pornographic instincts.

Imbued with the spirit of the rottenest and misogynistic ravings of the father of Protestantism, John Knox, Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, appealed to “a sense of moral decency on prime time TV” to “protect” America’s children from the traumatic experience of seeing a beautiful, caramel-skin woman dance on a pole. Yet another neo-Calvinist wonk from a notoriously right wing media outlet chimed in with a particularly galling take. Jon Miller, the African-American host of Blaze TV’s “White House Brief” took offense at the unfurling of a Puerto Rican flag before lamenting the “R-rated” tastes of his nation’s changing demographic.

Anyone who has watched 5 minutes of American prime time TV knows it is one of the vilest spaces of on-screen entertainment in the world. From a seemingly endless stream of procedural crime shows, that detail and obsess over the most gruesome murder scenes their writers can come up with, to the awful reality of dating shows like The Bachelor, where a dozen or so women make themselves sexually available to the same man as part of a trite, commercialized bastardization of human mating rituals, the patented thrust to package and sell every last drop of titillating content is the most American of traditions.

Being the snake oil salesmen that they are, neither Miller or Graham are doing anything other than marketing to their own “demo” through these ridiculous remarks on social media, just as Pepsi and Netflix (producers of J Lo’s pole-dancing stripper movie, “Hustlers”) we’re doing in last night’s otherwise unremarkable show.

The American entertainment industry’s production values are among the best in the world, but  the psychotic scripts and fake blood packets of any given TV show cannot begin to compare to the literal massacre of people, specifically children, by the guns these same two moral giants have infamously defended as a God-given right and the highest expression of American freedom.

So, if it comes down to making a “moral” choice between two people who condone and encourage an ideology that leads to the mass murder of men, women and children in our schools, parks and workplaces, and two scantily-clad ladies showcasing their talent and sensuality during a half-hour commercial, then the choice transcends the self-serving marketing sludge from which they plucked their race-baiting, anti-immigrant, self-serving, Trumpian rhetoric.

One truly does occupy the moral high ground. J-Lo’s fine 50-year old ass was perched right on it last night and both the preacher and the anchorman should take a knee in front of their 65-inch flat screen TV and kiss it.

Ultramiami

It’s Ultra Music Festival time, and the kids are back with their short shorts, fishnet stockings and lollipops to let loose for a few days in Downtown Miami. We took some pictures as Ultramiami kicks off, and thousands descend on the Magic City for their annual EDM ritual.

Lucky Stars

Once in a while, you get lucky in Miami. No, not that kind of lucky; the kind that lets you escape the ubiquitous flashiness and frivolous pursuits that characterize our touristy enclave. Last night, at the North Miami Beach Bandshell, everyone got lucky and witnessed a virtuoso performance by acclaimed Iranian musician, Sahba Motallebi, who was accompanied on stage by Naghmeh Farahmand, an accomplished percussionist trained by her father, Mahmoud Farahmand, considered a master of ancient Persian drum music in Iran.

Motallebi’s story is one of resilience in the face of religious and gender bias in her country, which she left in 2003 to pursue graduate studies. Although her supreme talent was recognized by winning the Best Tar Player award in the Iran Music Festival for four consecutive years, the graduate of the Tehran Conservatory of Music was impeded from continuing her studies as a result of being part of Iran’s largest non-Muslim minority, the Bahá’í. The fact that she was also breaking into the traditionally male-dominated world of Tar playing, made her advancement that much more difficult. At the age of 27, she left Iran for Russia, and later Turkey to further her musical education. Motallebi would eventually emigrate to the United States, where she resides today with her husband and two daughters.

Beyond the strings

Sahba Motallebi travels the world performing her beautiful compositions for the Tar, which means “string” in Persian, and is one of the oldest known musical instruments. The Tar is both the literal and linguistic ancestor of the guitar (gui-tar), which was brought to Spain by gypsies, and is the direct progenitor of Flamenco and other rich musical traditions of the Iberian Peninsula.

 

Naghmeh Farahmand
MIAMI BEACH, USA – JANUARY 27: Naghmeh Farahmand on stage playing the Daf, an ancient Persian drum, at the Bandshell in North Miami Beach, Florida on January 27, 2018 | PHOTO CREDIT: Raul Diego for deepcitychronicles.com ©2018 Deep City Chronicles. All Rights Reserved.

 

In a recent interview with the Miami New Times, Motallebi said that she sees herself as an ambassador for Iranian culture: “Naghmeh Farahmand and I are trying to introduce audiences to Iran through our music.” As well as a role model for Iranian women: “They are going to see me as a person that is going to talk on their behalf, on behalf of women who don’t have civil rights.”

Her passion for music and learning has led Motallebi to impart her knowledge through online instructional materials, which she does whenever she’s not on tour. Fortunately for us, she came to our little slice of dubstep hell, and graced the audience at the outdoor beach venue with a magical and inspiring performance many won’t soon forget. The first piece of the concert is presented in the video, and if you find yourself wishing you could listen to the rest of the show, all I can say is, better luck next time.

Electric Moon

Every city has something that sets it apart, an intangible quality that makes people want to stay forever or leave immediately. It is determined as much by geography as it is by its culture and for Miami, this quality is youth. Miami is a perennial teenager. Immature but beautiful. Full of potential but infuriatingly trite.

The sun is always shining and even when it rains the big, warm drops hug you like a Cuban grandmother. The humidity is legendary, but it’s only really a problem when stepping out of the airport to hail a cab. The rest of Miami is nearly 100% air conditioned. In short, there’s very little to complain about, climatologically speaking, in Miami. Like all teenagers, however, people in Miami complain almost incessantly and loudly.

Whether it has to do with corrupt city officials and politicians, the incompetent yet costly public transportation system, unaffordable housing or the increasingly horrible traffic, Miami does have legitimate issues to bitch about. Miami natives and adopted cousins from around the world complain, not in order to solve the problems per se. Like all youngsters they have an ulterior motive and that motive is to remove all obstacles to keep doing what they love to do more than anything else: party.

Hey, Mr. DJ

Naturally, every good teenage party needs a DJ and there are no shortage of them in the tri-county area. The Miami music scene is probably the only one in the world that doesn’t include actual musicians and with good reason, since learning an instrument requires discipline and patience; qualities rarely found in adolescents.

But a skilled DJ can do what few trained musicians can on their own. They can have thousands of people dancing to the point of ecstasy, give or take a few pills. The throbbing beats and tantric rhythms of a well-put-together set can generate a mesmerizing energy, enveloping an entire room – or stadium – in a state of complete rapture.

Electronic Dance Music or EDM caters to a certain age group, regardless of the actual chronological age of its fans. It’s for kids, the young at heart and those who want to escape responsibility, if only for a brief moment. Miami, therefore, should rightfully be considered the mecca of EDM because it is a place where all of that is possible.

The Ultra Music Festival was not only born in Miami, it is Miami. The bright, fluorescent clothing; the youthful exuberance; the classic sense of invincibility and the juvenile flirting techniques all bear the mark of a city that will never grow up because it doesn’t have to. The sun will keep shining, the water will stay warm and the party will go on.

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