Settling in Grahamstown, South Africa

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My name is Lena Weissbrot, a rapper and digital media artist, currently living in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Grahamstown is a small college town with passionate students and professors, and a lively nightlife full of music from all genres. For the next 9 months I will research women in Hip Hop in South Africa. I will conduct video interviews with local Hip Hop artists, film live performances, and find other artists to collaborate with creatively. As a rapper, I am interested in making music with other artists. As a digital media artist I have experience creating music videos, animations and graphics for my own music, and would like to create visuals for the artists I meet here.

There is also an academic element to my project. I have been sitting in on an Ethnomusicology course taught by Dr. Lee Watkins at Rhodes University. Dr. Lee Watkins’ body of research focuses on the socio-political power of Hip Hop around the world, specifically in South Africa and China. With his guidance, I will be writing a thesis examining the challenges in visibility and inclusion for women in Hip Hop in South Africa. I began my research at the International Library for African Music (ILAM), to collect different sources for my thesis. ILAM has a collection of many beautiful traditional African instruments. I also found some great books to begin my research.

African drums

An assortment of African drums at ILAM.

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Wednesday, March 30th, 2016 Audio, Thoughts, Video No Comments


summer essentials

Summer essentials. Concón, Chile.

Electronic music affords artistic expressions at a unique intersection between music, an art form that transcends its own temporal foundations, and technology, the advancements through which humankind asserts its intellectual capabilities and marks its place in history. Even in its relatively nascent stages, electronic music is a format, or perhaps an approach, that reflects the social, political, and cultural environments of global music communities through the unique relationships between artists and machines.

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Monday, March 28th, 2016 Audio, Thoughts 2 Comments

Lunch with Jairo Milanes

After an extended vacation of travel with family capped off by a bout of the mosquito virus called dengue fever, I arrived back in Cabarete just in time for a long weekend, during which I had the chance to interview pianist Jairo Milanes at a Dominican-Mexican restaurant in Puerto Plata.

Jairo discussed his experiences touring with Juan Luis Guerra (one of the few Dominican musicians to become popular internationally) as well as his current Latin jazz fusion composition projects and his performances with saxophonist, Sandy Gabriel.

Jairo Milanes

Pianist Jairo Milanes shares a book of solo transcriptions with me during our meeting.

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Monday, February 8th, 2016 Audio, Thoughts, Video 1 Comment

Gagá, Sibelius, and Dancers on the Ceiling: Santo Domingo’s Music Scene

Palabra del día: Hormigas
Translation: Ants

Explanation: After much frustration, I finally got rid of all of the ants in my kitchen! Well, maybe not all the ants, but at least 90 percent. The trick? Boric acid and sugar dissolved in water, left out as a trap overnight. Worked like a charm.

Comida del día: Empanadas
I walk by two empanada stands on my way to work, but for some reason I waited three months to try one. I finally stopped at one today, and it turns out that deep fried dough enveloping an egg and covered in ketchup is seriously tasty. Perhaps Dominican food is growing on me?

Foto del día:

Cabarete beach
An impending storm over Cabarete beach. Hopefully the rain will stay away for the jazz festival there this weekend!

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Monday, November 16th, 2015 Audio, Thoughts, Video 7 Comments

If You Get Invited to Someone’s House, Always Go

Palabra del día: Tapón
Translation: Traffic jam

Explanation: Though the DR’s capital Santo Domingo has a lot going for it, traffic control is not one of those things. On a recent trip there, I was stuck in a traffic jam for two hours, on what should have been a 20 minute drive. On the plus side, I now know the word “tapón!”

Foto del día:

This photo is from a recent gig at a super fancy resort in the nearby town of Puerto Plata. Scroll down for a video of our performance and to read about all of the juicy details.

recent gig

Photo from Juan Guivin
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Thursday, October 8th, 2015 Audio, Thoughts, Video 2 Comments


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