BOOK Release Date Changed!!

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My book — Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific— is slightly delayed and will be released in Spring 2016.

For those anticipating, please forgive the delay.  Publishing a book is a very intense task between publishers and authors. There are many facets that, along with everyday life matters, keeps things changing and moving and needing work to make it right.

The book is in the “proof” stage so it is in the final stages.

Be on the look out for announcements and other fun things regarding the release!

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Congrats so far to Blackanese Singer Judith Hill on ‘The Voice’

Black-Japanese singer Judith Hill has wowed the judges on the US television show: The Voice on her first night.  I am not a particular fan of these kinds of shows, but I always appreciate a Blackanese artist of success in the public limelight!  She is truly a great singer!

Video: Japanese Traditional Dance: Awa Odori – 阿波踊り

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Japan is a festival land.

There are many festivals throughout the year, some national, some regional, with most having ties to communal and/or ethnic memory and traditions that have long become non-ethnic and homogenized in Japan’s march toward joining the world community of nations.

Today, many young Japanese are only beginning to learn that Okinawa ‘may have not been’ a version of a Japanese identity, or that the Buraku and the Ainu people exist, or that Zainichi Koreans have had a precarious relationship to the Japanese nation in relation to what the mainstream has been taught.

Like most first-world nations today, National Festivals and associated dances have their origins in communities resisting the onslaught of the nation-builders, dominant clans that would massacre them and keep them controlled. Now they are part of a ‘mosaic’ of ‘traditional Japanese’ dances and festivals, where before, they may have been resisting that ‘Japanese’ identity, which comes from an amalgamation, like other national identities, of particular groups of allied ethnicities and clans.

Many festivals have their origins in religious or post-war and post-battle strategies of appeasement toward certain communities after battle.  Other festivals have roots in religious ceremonies in relation to the natural cycles of life or to honor gods and goddesses, while others have links with farmers and fishermen and bounty.  Still others are ceremonies of survival and empowerment. In more than a few instances, they are a combination of these named situations, and more.

Many of these meanings have lost their focus in modern Japan.  Most of the festivals and dances, of course, have needed to keep up with urbanization and modernization.  This also includes Japan’s notion of itself as a homogenized, unified nation of a single people.  The ‘other,’ then, are named legally other in laws and are distinctly excluded from nation, through micro-regulations, etc, much like most other nations of our present world.

Consequently,  these beautiful dances, are sometimes left to signify and represent ‘artistic beauty’ or exoticism and entertainment, merely a personal ‘fun’, perhaps. Many of these dances have their origins in Okinawa, Kagoshima, and from the Ainu, and/or other areas and communities that were nationalized through colonization in earlier times (and ongoing today as ‘minority’ communities). Many elders and well-thought younger persons, who have significant memory and links to what has been lost and what it has cost to maintain these dances and songs, feel these motions and tones, music and forms in a way much deeper than how most mainstream Japanese today may feel them.  Put another way: Japanese may be proud of these festival dances, and may even revere these traditions, but understand them as only a singular “Japanese” tradition from sometime long ago, through homogenized singular national ethnic myths or national versions of wars fought and natural disasters, stripping them of the uniquely diverse and possibly terrifying and most often empowering histories that point to people and communities that are not even recognized or trivialized.

In nations as old as Japan, what pre-figured (existed before) a “Japan,” is inside of these traditions. They are now considered ‘preserved Japanese traditions.’  In this way, it is a way for the people in the present, to feel their continuities and ancient histories, even though they are merely named ‘Japanese’ in the modern era.  Thus, a “Japanese-ness” could be crafted by way of naming these festivals and songs and dances, as ‘traditions of nation.’  They are, and they are not.  They may also signify resistance to nation, by communities and clans and ethnicities that were eventually assimilated into the Japanese nation.  For this reason, it is important that these traditions are preserved and empowered.

This video is of an excellent performance group performing in August of 2012.

This style of dancing is called ‘Awa Odori’ 阿波踊り.   The Awa Festival is a 3-day festival celebrated on Shikoku in Japan, in August, as one of the hundreds of events celebrating O-Bon  お盆 (National Buddhist Festival honoring the Dead). Awa, is the old term from the middle ages, naming what is today–Tokushima prefecture. This style of dancing is believed to have begun in the late 1500s.

A fairly good overview of the Awa dance and festival is at wikipedia.

Today, most watch the thousands of trained dancers in parades through the streets.  Originally, Everyone in the community would dance together.  Today, most people feel too embarrassed to dance or say they ‘can’t’ (internalized oppression in the nation-state).  People listen to and watch these dancers in parades and in one or more the hundreds of performances on the streets and in entertainment halls.  There are, however, many smaller celebrations where some choose to participate themselves, accompanied by the traditional instruments (flute, shamisen, bells, taiko drums).

When history is lost and manipulated by various forces in nation-making, ideas become contested along the lines of haves and have-nots, and what is ‘best for the nation.’  When reading histories of the Awa-Odori, its religious and communal roots and relations to nations are fairly clear, yet bring up many questions and silences.

In any case, this performance of Awa-Odori by this group is wonderful.  The clip contains short snippets of a few of the performances, where one can see the beauty of this form of Japanese dance.  Each hand gesture, finger movement, leg and foot movement, degree of bending and leaning, signifies something.  One can see the elements of nature (mountains, wind, oceans, etc.) in these movements and gestures.

I always remember these dances from childhood and remember them as more than just something ‘pretty.’  There is history in these dances, no matter how urbanized and nationalized and homogenized they are.  They retain that spark of beauty, grace, and some of its original forms.

My Poem published in KARTIKA REVIEW!

Kartika Review is one of the best literary journals dedicated to Asian-Americans.

The current issue– the Spring 2012 issue has just come out.

My first poem has been published in it (page 54).

It is entitled: For Kiyoko, Epitaph/Chikai – which is dedicated to my mother who recently passed, just this past September.

Sezen Aksu: the Queen/Diva of Turkish Pop

Sezen Aksu (July 13, 1954 -) is the quintessential diva extraordinaire, of Turkish pop.  She is the indisputable queen diva of the Turkish pop music scene.  ‘Pop’ music, now worldwide, through the effects of American colonization, always mixes with its locales to create interesting hybrid music that also carries certain themes that repeats throughout the world.  Songs of falling in love, songs of loving what or who we cannot have, separation and longing, devastation and pride, sorrow and joy.  Also, to dance our butts off.  Sezen Aksu’s unique, rough voice carries emotions that many in the Mediterranean are attracted to.  She has influenced pop music in the mediterranean nations, the Balkans and changed the annual Eurovision Music Context with her protege, Ertab Serener.  From the 1970s through today, and continues to break barriers.

She is particularly attractive to me in other ways, making me like her music more.  Her life has not been comfortable, although her fame and fortune has helped her.  She has married and divorced several times, something Turkish society does not like and in some cultures within the Turkish nation, divorcing is a taboo that the woman pays for the rest of her life (although this is not unique just to Turkish sub-cultures).  She has also married an Armenian, works tirelessly and speaks out vigorously for women’s rights and gay rights, and for the rights of the Kurds.  She has been allowed to stay out of jail, even though she has sung songs in the ‘illegal’ language of the Kurdish people, Zaza cultures, and Armenian people  in Turkey, and has co-sung with some of these groups’ popular singers, raising the eyebrows and bringing much-needed discussions at Turkish dinner tables.  She dares the powers that be, to let democracy work, and to love who we love, and for singers and all artists, to express and to live.

I present a nice classical-tinged with a bit of Astor Piazzolla-esque ballad, and a rocking dance song by her.  The remixes of her dance music have been done by hundreds of different musicians.  The dance song ‘Rakkas’ has become a perennial classic in Turkish pop culture and also internationally it is one of the most ‘mixed’ songs in dance clubs by DJs from Spain, Greece, the UK, India, Germany, Hungary to Japan.

Sezen Aksu: wikipedia

Sezen Aksu official site

Kıran kırana

Rakkas

Music!!! Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer: Quebec Traditional Music- a Capella

Fantastic  group that sings primarily Quebecois traditional music (from Quebec).  The songs are researched and apparently ‘true to the original.’  Their music is captivating, precise, envigorating, earthy.  Music such as this must be kept alive, remembered, performed.

For a wonderful video of their great hunting song rendition: ‘Yes Very Well,’  and short biography, visit LINK TV:

http://www.linktv.org/video/3317/world-music-les-charbonniers-de-lenfer-yes-very-well

For their website, please visit:

http://www.lescharbonniersdelenfer.com/

Video: Sir Ken Robinson speaks to Changing Educational Systems

Sir Ken Robinson, who has recently received the Benjamin Franklin Award, is a renowned thinker of educational reform.  He speaks to the Educational systems that have proliferated worldwide, through the nation-state system and global colonial enterprise.  This has created increasingly similar educational systems worldwide based on European enlightenment-era thought on a biopolitical education system which rests many of its basic tenets on assumptions, structures, discourses, and patterns of human worldview, an assumption of a ‘human nature,’ and on hierarchical and miltaristic structures that benefit economic systems, not people.

In this video on changing the educational paradigm, he presents many important concepts that we should think about in relation to how we ourselves, have formed our thinking.  In creating forms of education that are ‘meaningful,’ where do we construct continuities, priorities, and disjunctures?  When we do, who benefits from it and who loses out?  How can communties create a structure that is now attempting to accommodate more diverse aspects of information, culture, tradition, hopes, dreams and failulres, into itself?  In our efforts to ‘replace’ and ‘re-do’ our systems, what assumptions from our own education do we latch onto our view of a more ‘creative’ educational system that can ‘hold’ our children and the future of our nations and communities?

Aspects of this question are not covered in this video, while others are brilliantly commented on.  One person should not have to cover ‘everything,’ in an issue.  That is impossible, and unfair.  Sir Robinson does not attempt to say that he is covering ‘everything.’  That is up to the rest of us.  The issue is domination, oppression, who is allowed and not allowed?  Also there is the issue of privilege, entitlement and the kinds of questions we ask in order to decide how to re-structure something like ‘an educational institution’ when local schools are behoven to the most powerful, wealthy, and often most-corrupt and socio-pathic of persons who have constructed and *want to maintain* their wealth and privilege.  Many of them will resist to the point of killing and disposing of their created enemies.  There is accountability to consider in this picture as well.

I do not mention these things in order to ‘darken’ or to dampen the motivation for change.  Why do I mention these things to begin?  Because in order to transform education systems, we must acknowledge how our identities and ways we live and think and desire and dislike, are all bound-up with our histories within the global colonization of life.  Thus, many of our most cherished thoughts may be continuities that may prevent more creative ways of working with living within the economies that exist, to adjust to changes (or not), and also to prepare to live in a world where the economies are absolutely nothing like what has existed in our lives or imaginations.  Then the topic is “who is governing” or “managing” or “controlling” these things?  And can every person on the face of this planet expect to get everything they want?  Some are willing to concede and negotiate.  However, there are a vast number of people who conceive of their lives as an entitlement to get everything they want out of life.  This usually means someone else, or another community, will suffer because of it.  What must go into a ‘re-education?’  Let us ask ourselves this and begin to build the *capacities* required of what we may desire.  Does what we desire exclude?

This may also include ideas of multiculturalism.  To me, multiculturalism is a failure.  Multiculturalism seeks *inclusion.*  Inclusion into a system of exploitation and economies that must exploit and depend on its maintenance through military and economic power, expressed and managed through social institutions and worldviews, does not do away with hierarchy and injustice.  In disturbing this, many of us may react by doing opposites, while not questioning how anti-authoritarianism may destroy powers, certain people and structures that may be beneficial.  Entitlement and inpatience (getting our own way NOW!!!) kind of thinking is very dangerous, especially when we understand that all of us have internalized as live almost every moment as enlightenment-produced peoples and cultures.  Colonized minds tend to think into re-colonizing in different ways, calling it ‘creative.’  In reality, it may be the same things dressed in new clothes.  But the good news, I think, is that not every moment of our lives is that internalized colonization.  And in other ways, resistance to colonizing is also part of the same dynamic.  Resistance and dominance go hand-in-hand.  They are related.  If we think in different ways, then what will that look like?

Still the other problem is ethics?  I know many people who think in creative ways and have great ideas and attempt implementing them. However, I often see some problems with this (not that we can ever get away from problems).  Yes, nothing is going to be perfect and total.  So that is important to tell ourselves.  However, I mention this in a way to point out a form of colonization of the mind that we often do not examine.  That is the reality of unethical behaviors passing for good creativity.  Ideas of progress, internalized, so that ideas of older persons and the wisdom of older ways or traditions can be relegated to ‘old’ and ‘outdated.’  In other ways, it is racialized or subsumed within hierarchies.  So we can say that if a woman thinks it, then it’s not good enough (unless it matches with a few elite men’s ideas), or it’s too black and doesn’t include whites, or it’s too Asian and therefore doesn’t do this or that, or it’s too ‘gay’ or it’s too this or that.  We  may be creative but in service of a ‘progress’ that demotes sustainable solutions and ideas, traditions and methods that may have already been practiced in traditions that were devasted and killed during the rise of nation-building and industrialization that globalized through colonial expansionist practices worldwide, then maintained by the elites of the world nations.  It is not a moral issue.  Those of us who have studied the world-system currently in mode, understand that it has  been an act of survival to do it, lest our nation or community is starved by the elite, or invaded.  To join the global elite game has been largely both an act of wanting to be the boss, as well as an act of survival in the face of more militarily powerful and who have the more resources.

To reform education will return to the same problem.  To transform it, to shift it, will take large efforts on our parts, and to truly re-organize how we think about how we work with each other and our planet.  What must be laid for the conditions of possibility to give birth to more just, creative, and empowering ways that honor our lives and begin to heal as well as build?