Two days after the Tsunami scare, Oahu dwellers experienced the Honolulu City Festival: a bittersweet celebration, as a lot of the Hawaiian cultural heritage comes from Japan and the Hawaiian islands were spared, while Japan faces the catastrophic aftermath of the earthquake. The fireworks, which were slated to close the City Festival, were cancelled as a sign of respect and condolences to the Japanese survivors.

In Honolulu, a Tsunami of cultural forces celebrated life and artistic expression. On Waikiki beach, a high energy dance group, Takarabune, brought their primal screams of youth and joy straight from Japan.

A crowd of tourists gathered around the group as they prepared for their performance. In red kimonos – and make-up and hair right out of Lady Gaga videos – this innovative and audacious company urged the audience to get closer as their drummers warmed-up and the dancers cheerfully greeted the onlookers.

Takarabune’s music reminded me of the percussion of the Intrepida Trupe, the performers of De La Guarda, combined with animated screaming from the dancers at the top of their lungs, like lava spewing out of a volcano and releasing the world’s tension. The vocals did not stop there, there was singing in Japanese and greetings to the audience in English: “We love you” and “We are crazy dance from Japan”, followed by them engaging the audience in singing along to a melody. Unlike traditional dancers, who don’t break the fourth wall, these performers stared directly into the eyes of as many viewers as they could connect with, all the while moving very quickly and precisely around their improvised beach stage. The young dancers’ energy is more contagious than what I felt with The Blue Man Group or any interactive performance I have witnessed in New York, London, Rio or Paris. The following was taken from their website:

Takarabune is a creative dance company of Awa Odori, one of the most well-known Japanese traditional dances with a 400 years of history. They push the limits of this venerable traditional art: their signature dance style is so aggressive and vigorous that it has been characterized as ‘dance beyond Awa Odori’. Their performance at a number of Awa Odori events held in Tokyo has generated growing interest among a variety of media, and the group has gained a reputation as the hottest Awa Odori group (ren) in Japan.

Takarabune was founded by Akira Yonezawa from Tokushima, the birthplace of Awa Odori. The members are mostly in their teens and twenties, the majority of whom have more than 10 years of experience. Its skilled dance and music and the dynamic performance captivate the audience.

Awa Odori performances have dancers and musical accompanists. In Takarabune, all members are dual-role experts trained both in dancing and musical accompaniment, unlike typical Awa Odori groups where members are divided into dancers and musical accompanists. This allows Takarabune to build a uniquely dynamic program on the stage. Witnessing one performance will only give you a glimpse of what Takarabune has to offer. Takarabune has so much more!

In October 2009, Takarabune was the first in the Awa Odori community to run a one-man live show at a club. The show, as well as two subsequent shows in 2010, were enthusiastically received with all the tickets sold out on all days. Their next show has been scheduled on May 7th and 8th, 2011.”

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Pop-infused contemporary art is rooted deep in tradition. On the surface, irreverent artists seem to negate the classic form. If you listen a little closer – watch their feet as they move – Takarabune gives away just how much of their choreography is taken from martial arts and ancient Japanese culture.

Two weeks earlier and thousands of miles northeast, another music performance awoke me from a state of stupor caused by mainstream radio stations and washed out Grammy stage performances. Buddy Guy himself took to the stage of Buddy Guy Legends in the Windy City to join some of his finest fellow blues brothers. My husband and I had been searching for the Green Mill, supposedly a favorite hang out of Al Capone’s, and almost by accident stumbled upon the dark and discrete Chicago corner between Printers’ Row and Grant Park.

After an amazing set by the internationally acclaimed Jimmy Johnson (and looking at the gallery of memorabilia from rock n’ roll icons who performed with Buddy on the walls), the audience was treated to some really sexy guitar riffs and melodies in the incredible voice of the man himself.

Buddy Guy talked about the hip hop stars of today’s big record labels and how their lyrics were inspired by the old days of Chicago blues. Even the down-and-dirty rappers’ catchy choruses are inspired by late night conversations and jamming sessions of serious jazz and blues musicians. The beats may have changed but the lyrics are not some new invention. Noone re-invents the wheel. Artistically speaking, this is not to say that truly original work is impossible. Rather, this is to say how delightful it is to find new artists willing to admit that their work reflects their forerunners, and also to see lifetime legends whose body of work has come full circle.

The Memphis Blues Tour, Cyndi Lauper’s new artistic creation, is conquering fans throughout the tour’s many stops. A legendary pop icon better known for her dance hits, Cyndi is putting her amazing voice at the service of classic, irrefutably good music. And she is collaborating with some incredible musicians along the way. I saw the Memphis Blues Concert at Town Hall in New York last year and was very impressed. Cyndi took it a step further with her concerts in Brazil last month. She infused her biggest hits with Brazilian beats, courtesy of Brazilian percussionist Lan Lan (my cousin). The Memphis Blues band packs concert halls in this age of overtly produced Justin Bieber copycats and singers crawling out of Matthew-Barney-inspired sculptures. Young Cyndi Lauper fans in Brazil who inherited their parents’ records are learning about the blues. Art is gaining something valuable and refreshing with the cross-pollination of different cultural backgrounds.

Posted by Kaz, filed under

. Date: March 26, 2011, 10:58 pm | No Comments »

It was raining and sunny at the same time and I was walking along First Avenue with my fiance.  He said “It’s like life, it rains and shines at the same time in life too.”  This made me think of a few things I love about New York City, and a few things I love sharing with out of town visitors…

1. The Big Piano at F.A.O. Schwartz, it still gets me after all these years.

2. Knowledgeable sommeliers at wine stores.  Forget the grumpy man at the Liquor store who is reading the news in a foreign alphabet and scratching his beard.  New York has too many great stores for you to settle for the nearest non-friendly liquor store.  Check out Serendipity, on First Avenue between 82nd and 83rd Street if you live uptown.  If you live downtown, you will loooove this shop and its owner:  http://www.winegeeknyc.com/  He is very animated, he’s got maps and anecdotes about the regions where the wine came from, and he is very veeery generous with pouring the wine during the tastings.

3. The names of the colors of nail polish at beauty salons:  Wrapped in Rubbies; Montauk, the end; Curtain Call.  I think I spend more time reading the names of the colors and wishing I had that job of naming the colors than actually getting any beauty procedures done.

4. The Ziegfeld theatre!  (http://www.clearviewcinemas.com/ziegfeld/ziegfeld-history.html) I beg you see a film there if you have never been.

http://www.clearviewcinemas.com/ziegfeld/ziegfeld-photos.html

5. The little obscure hair salons that are cheap, fast, effective and make you look truly dazzling.  I like Hair Mates and Dea Beauty Salon, but there are others…  Hair salons on a street block are inevitably more attentive than the ones on main avenues and busy intersections.  Needless to say, the chain ones are never good.

I’ll leave it High-fidelity style with only my top five.  Being a foodie, I could say lots of things about Chelsea Market but since that’s right by the High-Line park, my new favorite spot,  I’ll write about those two separately in a Summer entry.  The point is, there will always be spots in your life’s map which are covered by a cloud, but there are sunny spots too, you just have to find them.  And to keep moving forward.

Posted by Kaz, filed under No tag for this post.. Date: April 19, 2010, 2:01 am | No Comments »

10  Apr
The Brit in Me

The Spring morning weather in New York yesterday was very English.  I was listening to Mika, Kaiser Chiefs and Kate Nash on my iPod on the way to work, as their music suits this light rain mood.  One of my American co-workers got into the elevator with me and asked me what I was listening to, and upon my response, he goes “Don’t encourage this weather to stay”.  As it turns out, I do have a melancholic-yet-beautiful appreciation for rainy days I didn’t have before.  I welcome the serenity it brings – the “let’s sit at the pub with chips and beer and watch the football (soccer) on the telly”.

 

The time I spent in the UK was interesting, especially the times I spent in London.  But because the time I spent in Bristol was often boring and lonely, I tend to forget the things that got ingrained in me by living there.  I go make tea when someone is trying to wind me up, I put onion marmelade in most sandwiches, I say “wicked” and “brilliant” more than I should, and the cynicism has definitely stayed.

 

Working in an office full of Brits, words like cheeky, mufti, rugby and mate are an integral part of my vocabulary.  On most rainy days I can’t even tell I am in the US from nine till five.  When I’m out at a pub and Noel Gallagher’s voice plays, I can’t help but singing along.  With the World Cup approaching and the level of excitement in my office increasing everyday with the countdown, I long more and more to join avid soccer fans in the banter about their teams.  61 days till the first day in South Africa.    Brazil will play the first game on June 15th,  against Korea.  Then we will play Cote D’Ivoire and Portugal and come out victoriously as the top team in Group G.

 

So I may not miss the cricket, and I certainly don’t want the clouds to hang around forever… but in the meanwhile,  I’ll enjoy and Blighty Spring that has lingered over Gotham.

 

 

Posted by Kaz, filed under No tag for this post.. Date: April 10, 2010, 4:58 pm | No Comments »

In New York it is really your choice.  And whilst a handful of people still choose to show up in jeans to special occasions, or in an ultra tight/super short boob-revealing latex dress, there are plenty of people who choose to take advantage of an evening out in Gotham to dress to impress.

Such was the case last night at Le Cirque.  Some jet setters, artists, fashionistas and other young-and-fabulous types got together at Le Cirque for a Haiti benefit co-hosted by The King Collective.  (www.thekingcollective.com)

Looking around the crowd, I felt some serious clutch envy.  Half the women in the room were flaunting their accessories in really impressive fashion.  I saw some amazing jeweled clutch purses, some were tiny, some were long and thin, and some were just so original.  The same goes for bracelets and necklaces.  It seems as Gothamnites more than ever can turn an LBD into a statement with their accessories.  It made me develop a shopping itch and a sense that I know what is missing in my life:  better accessorizing!  (Certainly not inner peace or yoga)

There were many stunning dresses.  There was the light pink semi sheer slip with a nice belt,  the stunning shiny number the party hostess chose, and many beautiful dresses that almost didn’t get noticed because the person wearing the dress was gorgeous to begin with.

Men’s fashion did not lag behind at this event.  Swedish men in latest designer posh suits and accessories were representing their Nordic flare for fashion.

An evening like this makes you wonder why some people still don’t bother to dress up and/or choose something that is clearly a faux-pas for their type.

So be grateful that evenings like this one exist.  And, as I have to tell myself all the time, be grateful that not every single person walking Gotham has good taste.  If that was the case, no one would appreciate an evening out where almost every single person in the room is worthy of a double take.  It’s a mood lifter, an inspiration, an escape from the mundane parade of visual disasters in the subway or in your office (or my office).

I was definitely inspired last night, and for so long as I live in New York, may these havens of fabulousness remain my playground, and yours.

Posted by Kaz, filed under No tag for this post.. Date: February 7, 2010, 3:51 am | No Comments »

03  Apr
The Medici Effect

Walking around New York City for the past few months, I have discovered a lot of things I could not have noticed on my own. In fact, I walked some of the same streets for many years before this period in my life, and saw many spectacles on Broadway stages and concert halls, often with friends and family. Unbeknownst to me, there was a web of connections between those ideas in the visual/performing arts and practical moments. Whilst I know that there is a clear break between works which are expressed through different media, and that it can be difficult to find the common thread between moments of appreciation for music and moments of disbelief at, for instance, a controversial sculpture at a gallery, I found many answers by looking at the same experiences through someone else’s lens. This is a posting about love and art, art and self-struggles, and art about art. I could have let you arrive at that, but this story is a bit more personal, and thus the disclaimer.

There is something incredible about sharing an artistic experience with a person you really admire. The man I am speaking of is the man I love (all opinions hereby expressed are biased, this was going to go in the footnotes) – but this man who is now an integral part of my intellectual evolution is also a talented photographer, and thus more apt to reveal these fleeting revelations (truths whose importance I used to understate).

A piece of artistic self-expression can elevate you and it can humble you. It teaches you that it is more important to take it in than to judge it, even if it is unavoidable to form an opinion about whether that piece suits your personal taste. A question that can always be raised is that most art is not appreciated in its own time of creation. Many pieces only attain the status of artistic masterpieces over time. They must be barreled like red wine or left to rest and rise like bread before baking. There are many reasons why I believe this to be true, even though the art world is made up of more exceptions than ruling trends.

The Cloisters Museum displays pieces that have undisputable historical value, and yet it is possible to go there and experience different thoughts by looking at the same artwork depending on who accompanies you in the process. While the talented photographer captured the light seeping into the building from different angles, shadows, reflections, sillouettes, stark contrasts and subtle metaphors in his shots, I pondered over his moment of creation of art about art. A photograph in a museum can be innovative and groundbreaking, even when it includes or revolves around another work of art. In essence, it is a photograph about life, about people interacting with art, and often reflecting upon their self-struggles or what mood or memories the room can evoke. Whether my beloved’s photos portray a city street, a long hallway at MoMA, or a music performance on a main stage or a man playing sax on the street, they are works which reveal to me the beauty of the connections that I was not making on my own. These works may be interpreted in many years as social commentary, anthropological documentaries or appreciated for their beauty alone. In my own though process about the rooms which were being photographed, the lingering in each rooms allowed me to stared at painting or sculptures long enough to confront internal struggles, some of which were encouraging, some of which were daunting. Can photographs and films be less manipulative of the subject than writing literature or composing music? That in itself is a broad statement, for photographers and filmmakers create in different ways, and so do writers and musicians. Any notions I had on this, colored by academic discourse or a rushing sense of “real life is waiting and I must get to the TO-DO list” were challenged when I encountered each and every artistic experience of the past few months with the man I love. When you challenge your old assumptions about art, you find out how much you didn’t know or how much your taste has changed… lessons which both reassure you and humble you. Like a hall of mirrors, art about art has the power to magnify perspectives and amplify sounds/lights, even if these may not be the perfect words to describe the expansion of understanding that takes place at the intersection or life, art and love. The echo is overwhelming for a moment, like an ecstasy of sensual pleasure, but it subsides, settles and ages like the art itself, becoming more valuable with each fleeting hour, giving way to silence (a golden kind of silence that soothes, unlike boring or slow silence)

The Really Terrible Orchestra’s performance at New York City’s Town Hall this past Wednesday was one that invoked happy emotions on its audience. An orchestra that does not take itself seriously and invites interaction from untrained participants elevates the viewer to the status of performers. They made the audience laugh, sing, pop paper bags filled with air and think about the state of other forms of art. They talked about the notion of skill and talent versus sheer amusement. Not only inspiring, this performance was an active example of arts about arts, exercising the cross-pollination that is required to truly breathe new air into old forms of spectacle. This was art which was proud to entertain, drawing upon a hybrid of techniques and instruments to engage and delight its audience, while claiming to be there just to amuse themselves.

Had it not been by the guiding hand of my Artistic Catalyst, I would not have found the Really Terrible Orchestra. Reflecting upon this onstage performance, and comparing this to the sax player we had seen just a couple of days earlier on the corner of Fifth Avenue, I noticed I would not have acknowledged the talent of the street performer if my boyfriend had not stopped to photograph him. This got me thinking of photographs and frames, and how an orchestra framed by stage lights has greater perceived value, just like photos in impressive paspaté and frames on a wall. The cascade of interpretations upon these different moments is endless, like the hall of mirrors itself. The lasting impression of individual pieces, photos and performances in my life was amalgamated, the result of a much greater appreciation for the creative process, not of any and all artists, but of those that made me question my old beliefs and the ones that just made me happy.

Posted by Kaz, filed under No tag for this post.. Date: April 3, 2009, 5:56 pm | 1 Comment »

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