Category: Music

Nomadic Allstar Global Hip-Hop Throwdown

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006 | All Things, Events, Music

Continuing on with NYU’s (unofficial) distance learning program…

After cooking up yesterday’s collards, I sat at home, debating whether to venture out again. The night was still unseasonably warm, I had invitations in hand, and the venue was just two subway stops from my apartment.  I fought off entropy to meet SYB.

Nomadic Wax — the self-proclaimed “underground ‘guerilla-style’ record label — was in town for the NY Hip Hop Dance Convention‘s International MC Showcase at T-New York. The event featured international artists from all parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia culled from Nomadic Wax’s last CD, Nomadic Mixtape Vol. 2: East African Hip-Hop Beatdown.

As soon as I approached T on 52nd Street, I recognized it as the tri-level space formerly known as Temple, formerly known as Float. M and I attended the opening of its last incarnation in late 2004 — a night of free-flowing vodka tonics and much dancing, that I still recall with quite a bit of fondness, and a little queasiness.


Korean-American rapper El Gambina (shouldn’t this be La Gambina?) was on the stage when we arrived. She is a member of Organic Thoughts, a New Jersey based hip-hop crew. El Gambina was a charismatic performer, and “cute” as SYB noted — an assessment clearly shared by the eager male fans in the audience. Still, there’s something about East Asian rappers I find oddly discordant.

Next up: Chee Malabar, one half of the hip-hop outfit Himalayan Project, from San Francisco by way of India. His style was more laid back than his lead-in’s… heavier on the beats and thick with sociopolitical commentary. Malabar’s was the performance I enjoyed most of the evening.

Chee Malabar

Balozi Dola, a hip-hop artist from Tanzania, performed a short, frantic set as part of a trio of rappers.

Balozi Dola

The acts were each introduced by the MC of the evening, a striking woman from Kenya, who promised to perform a song for those staying through to the end. We didn’t. Minutes into the set by LF (from São Paulo) and DJ Laylo (from the South Bronx) we quietly slipped out.


Strolling through the theater district, we passed the Neil Simon Theatre, where fans were gathered on the sidewalk outside, post-show. The stage door opened and we heard a buzz of excitement run through the crowd. Hairspray star Shannon Durig emerged, smiling and gamely signing autographs for those assembled.

Shannon Durig

I suspect that at least a few of the people there were waiting not for Durig, but for a glimpse of American Idol Season 3 runner-up Diana DeGarmo, who rejoined the Hairspray cast in September after a three month stint earlier in the year.

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Manny & Mozart

Thursday, October 12th, 2006 | All Things, Friends, Music

Pianist Emanuel Ax was performing an all Mozart program with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall tonight, celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) and the 30th anniversary of Ax’s first collaboration with the conductorless ensemble.

Ax first came to the public’s attention in 1974 when, at 25, he won the first Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition in Tel Aviv. Since that auspicious start, Ax has gone on to win numerous awards, including the Avery Fisher Career Grant (awarded annually since 1982 to outstanding solo instrumentalists) and several Grammys: two for his solo recordings and five for collaborations with Yo-Yo Ma, Jaime Laredo, and Isaac Stern.

That afternoon, I placed a call to the Carnegie Hall Box Office and was surprised to learn that there were still seats available to that night’s performance. Better still, they were offering last minute $10 (cash only) tickets. At that price, it didn’t even matter where in the Hall the seats were: we were going to Carnegie Hall!

SYB left the office early to pick up the tickets. After he and I met up for a quick pre-concert bite — one booth over from Atoosa Rubenstein – it was off for an evening of Mozart.


I don’t know why, I don’t know how… but here we are again: second row center! From our seats, we were close enough to see the flying hammers reflected in the propped, glossy lid of the grand Steinway.


Ax’s playing was “fluid, elegant and refined,” as the New York Times noted in their glowing review of the concert. I was intrigued by how the leaderless Orpheus managed to keep their playing even and well-tempered, especially during some of the pieces’ more fluid, running segments. A different core group shapes each piece, shifting seating assignments and providing cues for their respective sections. The process requires almost twice as many rehearsals, but allows the individual ensemble players opportunities for input not possible in a conductored grouping.


Emanuel Ax


Beginning on Friday, October 13, and through January 7, 2007, the Morgan Library is also celebrating the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth with an exhibition entitled “Mozart at 250: A Celebration,” tracing the great composer’s life through manuscripts, letters, and first editions of his works. Works among the always impressive collection include tonight’s “Haffner” Symphony, K. 385  [1782–83], in the velvet and silver case in which it was housed when it was presented to King Ludwig II of Bavaria in 1865. I remember this from the last time I was in the manuscript room, a couple of months ago. Also on display:

Other manuscripts from the Vienna years include those of the somber Fugue for Two Pianos in C Minor, K. 426, Mozart’s only keyboard fugue of any distinction; two of his best-known piano concertos — in C, K. 467, and D (“Coronation”), K. 537; Der Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario), the only manuscript of a Mozart opera in this country; the Piano Rondo in D, K. 485, known to piano students around the world; the Horn Concerto in E-flat, K. 495, written in four different colors of ink; and the arrangement for voice, violin, and piano of Cherubino’s aria “Non so più cosa son” from Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), the only complete arrangement of an operatic number Mozart is known to have made.

The exhibition ends with the exceedingly rare first edition of the Requiem, K. 626, left incomplete at Mozart’s death.

I’m constantly amazed by the sheer depth of Mr. Morgan’s collection. Definitely checking this out.

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La Gioconda — Act I

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006 | All Things, Arts, Friends, Music

I did not make it into the office today.

I did, however, make it to the opera for the first performance in my season’s series. The Metropolitan Opera’s 2006-2007 season kicked off the night before with a red-carpet gala performance of Madama Butterfly broadcast on giant video screens in both Lincoln Center Plaza and on the Panasonic jumbo screen at 1 Times Square. Broadway between 42nd and 45th Streets was closed to traffic to make space for 650 cushioned seats — no tickets necessary; alternatively, for $50,000, patrons could have purchased an eight-seat opera box and attended the post-performance dinner.

This night (sans Mikhail Baryshnikov, Sean Connery, Goldie Hawn, Anjelica Huston, David Bowie, Meg Ryan, Al Roker, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, James Gandolfini and Jude Law): Amilcare Ponchielli’s La Gioconda.

Met Opera

Madama Butterfly

Met Chandelier

La Gioconda translates to The Ballad Singer, though the English title is almost never used. It is a lengthy work (with an estimated performance length of four hours) with four acts by Ponchielli, and a libretto by Arrigo Boito, after Victor Hugo’s play, Angelo, Tyrant of Padua. Each act of the opera has a separate title: Act I, “The Lion’s Mouth“; Act II, “The Rosary“; Act III, “The House of Gold,”; Act IV, “The Orfano Canal.”

Even those not familiar with La Gioconda  recognize its “Dance of the Hours,” which is inextricably associated in the cultural consciousness with the trippily lumbering, twirling hippos of Disney’s Fantasia (and Allan Sherman’s “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh”).

From the Met’s website description of La Gioconda:

Historical spectacle and extreme contrast of musical moods highlight the plights of five love-crazed characters in Ponchielli’s grandest of grand operas. Violeta Urmana, Olga Borodina, and Marcello Giordani head the vocal forces while renowned choreographer Christopher Wheeldon creates the dances (including the irrepressible “Dance of the Hours,” made famous in Walt Disney’s Fantasia). The opera also features the all-time best final line in opera (“and by the way, I killed your mother!”).


This night, I didn’t make it to that finale either.

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