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No Apologies Necessary

Children’s music workshop at the Collateral Repair Project Refugee Community Center

“I am Rania!”

A friend and I are sitting near the steps to Amman’s ancient Roman citadel when a bright-faced little
girl – no more than three feet tall – appears beside us. Tugging at my friend’s pant leg, the girl offers
a loud “Hello! How are you! I am Rania!” The words spill quickly from her mouth as her lips
blossom into a proud smile. She is obviously pleased about having addressed us in English and
begins twirling in circles playfully. “Where are you from, Rania?” My Arabic surprises her, and she
stops mid-twirl. “Syria,” she says, and continues to spin.

Rania, age eight, spends evenings at her family’s roadside snack stand with her barely-older sister just
outside the citadel’s entrance. I ask her about herself, and she happily tells me that her favorite color
is red, that she dislikes math and that her family is from Damascus, all while continuing to twirl in
circles. “And now seven of us live in one room,” she added abruptly yet unconcernedly.

My response, which I immediately regret, is an apologetic one. “Why are you sorry?” she asks,
confused by my change in mood. I say nothing, and so Rania continues to twirl and sway, this time
adding a song, the lyrics of which I cannot understand. I tell her that I too am a singer, and so she
patiently teaches me the words. Her song distracts me from my thoughts – about Syria, about other
children like Rania, and about the six other people with whom she shares a one-room home.
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Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 Video 15 Comments

Did you come from Istiklal?

“Did you come from Istiklal?” The phrase has become a refrain in our conversations. Every time we meet, one demonstration or another is in the process of being broken up along Istiklal Caddesi, Istanbul’s famous pedestrian drag and a main site of the summer’s Gezi protests. Protests have continued for various reasons under different banners and with slightly less fervor into the rainy winter months; the government, meanwhile, has become increasingly efficient at stamping out these spontaneous displays of dissent. The police and their panzers waiting along the street – fewer on calm days, more when an especially contentious bit of legislation is passed or new details of a corruption scandal come to light- are now as much a part of life here as the city’s traffic and penchant for tea.

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Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 Video No Comments

Abu Sadiq

Abu Sadiq is one of the elder statesmen of the Dagomba music scene. He is frequently mentioned in the same breath as Sheriff Ghale, and like his contemporary, is primarily a reggae artist. Reggae had its heyday in Ghana in the 1990s through the mid-2000s. Even when I first visited Ghana in 2008, you were much more likely to hear reggae pumping from roadside spots (small outdoor bars) than any other music. Today, the Ghanaian soundscape is dominated by hiplife—Ghanaian hip-hop. But that’s a story for another post.
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Friday, February 7th, 2014 Video No Comments

Hip Hop al Parque

The last weekend of October I checked out the seventeenth annual edition of Festival Hip Hop al Parque hosted at Parque Simon Bolívar. The festival celebrated more than 30 years of Colombian hip hop and brought together some of Colombia’s best emcees, DJs, graffiti artists and break crews. The festival, like other publicly-funded series Salsa al Parque and Rock al Parque, is offered free to the public so that there’s low barriers to attend, aside from the three rounds of heavy pat-downs to clear security at the entrance.

The festival featured local and district artists as well as invited international artists like headliners Public Enemy (US), Danay Suárez (Cuba) and next-level scratcher DJ Revolution (Australia). I hadn’t expected to focus so much on hip hop culture during my time here. But now that I’m here I see the strength of the music and culture in Colombia at this moment, and the possible capacity of events like this blur social barriers that often divide communities in Bogotá. More on that in future posts.

One of my favorite performances came from Bogotá-based emcee Aguila Tway, a fixture in the local scene and known for her message of positive empowerment that she also shares through her hip hop workshops for disadvantaged youth in the city’s southern barrios. Tway was also the first female artist ever to be selected to perform from the 152 artists that competed in the public auditions organized byIDARTES, landing one of the eleven coveted spots. Artists T-Lonius y Tynoko, Engendros del Pantano, Mackia, Censuradox, JemboD, Producto Hip Hop, Diez, Yhon Secuaz and Bison also made it to the stage through this process.
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Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 Video No Comments

PA’ PICAR Mixtape Series: Monosóniko Champetúo

Para español, click aquí.

I caught up with Monosóniko as he was preparing for the second edition of his Rarezas Bailables (Danceable Rarities) party with selector Barba Roja, featuring rare vinyl selections “que ni Shazam con toda su fama puede encontrar” (that even Shazam with all of its fame couldn’t find). Monosóniko relocated to Bogotá from Barranquilla, where he grew up observing Afro-Caribbean sounds and picó soundsystem dancers in the neighborhoods of La Chinita and Simon Bolivar, developing his particular style from watching his father and brother, seasoned picoteros (picó soundsystem DJs).
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Friday, January 17th, 2014 Video No Comments

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