COMEDY from the ‘Axis of Evil’: Maz Jobrani

Interview and Stand-up

Advertisements

TASHA – The Best Female Blasian Rapper II: Yoon MiRae “T” (티) 윤미래 : Biracial expressions II

Photo courtesy of SookYeong at wordpress

More  “T” music – as she is also known in the global R&B world, and her former name “TASHA.”

Her name is YOON MI RAE.

She’s not just a rapper.  She encompasses R&B and balladry.  She’s one of the best anywhere. She is the undisputed queen of Korean Black music.

There have been others like her in the past, in East Asia and Southeast Asia, who have been shunned and their lights never shone to the world.  Now that the world seems readier, in many ways, while in some nations, including in Japan and other countries it is still slow and the repressed expressions of life and creativity live side-by-side.  The empowering of “T” into the limelight is a path of empowerment.  At the same time, it continues the sequestering of difference into entertainment and sports, which seems to now be the globally accepted places/spaces where multi-racial and bi-racial persons of Asian and/or black descent, can shine more.  Even as there is a ‘shining,’ I have found in my own life and in talking to other blasians, the road is still steep.  Endurance and commitment have to be nurtured, as many of the sub-cultures of identity and color and difference, do not completely accept, if at all.  The glittering lights should not be seen a totally happy place, a place where we can say “oh now they’re fine, those poor people who have endured so much–now they can be somebody…”  We can think that people have ‘found their paths’ but how much of that ‘path’ is a cornering, an act of survival?  It is most certainly a freedom.  But is freedom only freedom?  What I point to is that freedom is small in relation to the spaces that are closed and which that ‘path’ is really a space that the oppressions don’t cover.  It is a small escape hatch, if you will, while most of the dominant spaces still remain closed.  It LETS DOMINANT SOCIETY off, disguising itself as:  ‘see….we’re a ‘free and democratic society–we let EVERYONE find their path.”   Is it THAT INDIVIDUAL’s path?  In some ways, it was chosen by the structure of society FOR THEM/ for US.  Freedom is most often, and increasingly and globally, an un-freedom created by dominant society.

How?  What restrictions do the open spaces cover?  How does this, then, assuage those who feel powerless or ignorant, to do much to intervene into the racist structures of our society.  Music is an outlet and a place for survival, for many.  But other spaces may close.  And perhaps others may open.

At the same time…….as I have hinted at in my earlier post on ‘MULTI-RACIAL….Transnational Elitisms??” — it can also become a cover for assimilation into the middle class and the globalization of sameness and comfort and safety.  It is a razor’s edge.  Difference will then be subsumed under ‘YOU need to make it into the middle class–LOOK! I’ve done it.  You have NOT arrived until you do it like I do….”

This is so often what it looks like.  It’s painful.  It is still a way of condescending against different lives and also classism.  We must alleviate the fissures of class and domination, yet at the same time, not wish other communities and cultures to assimilate.

As one may become more visible, perhaps through openings in entertainment or sports, one then enters a whole other set of multiple oppressions to work on.  It can become a choice.  It is — SAD, enRAGING, and also a space for us to become privileged in our knowledge and resource-amassing– to struggle for empowerment and justice in the world.  Having ARRIVED into middle-class positions, who want and have some access to higher elite resources and comforts, what do we do with it?  Do we then, point to the lower again and become that which assimilates, condescends, wanting everything to be homogenized, the same, constricted, small, superior?

“T” or Tasha, invites us to enter into the boardroom of a mass society of marginalized and brutalized underclasses who are formed by those who have been born into their ‘natural’ class and use it to wield the power of assimilation and superiority –mostly through being unaware. It is not entirely only about RACE.  It is also about gender.  As a female and as bi-racial, and as dark-skinned, she has endured the lines through which dominance is activated in mainstream lives across the world.   “T” invites us, first, to be conscious of that life.

If we hear the words, we can hear YOUR voice, no matter how wealthy or privileged.  The whole world has internalized oppression.  Even as we move up in socio-economic class, we can perhaps remember that there is so much within our lives and selves we GIVE UP and destroy in ORDER TO ARRIVE at that position.   YES, we are all under the system.  Those, like myself and T, have struggled in the racially-constructed oppressions.  Perhaps even as socio-economically determined, adding another slew of intensities.   Being sensitive in listening……we hope that this music does what it wants to do—–to NOT JUST understand an individual’s pain, but that individual pain most often comes from SOCIALLY-CONSTRUCTED and AGREED UPON and often INVISIBLE forms of oppression.  And often not so invisible but invisible when we are too busy with our own individual concerns and not with policies, institutions and perceptions that hold it in place, even as individuals may become aware of how their own lives have been affected.  How about an understanding of how most of us need to fight against, and transform all the myriad oppressions that make us slaves to them while we try to gain access to privileges.

Racism and sexism, heterosexism and classism, anti-semitism, able-ism and other isms are alive everywhere.  “T” is asking for us to listen and FEEL something that we must fight together.

Blorean, Blasian, Korean, Black-American, African-American– sings of the vicissitudes of being biracial/multiracial in societies that shun and legitimate the shunning, through the silence of the majority–thus legitimizing and upholding the racist violence–including exclusion and physical and emotional abuse and brutality of the direct perpetrators.  The loneliness and the will to survive go hand-in-hand– tremendous obstacles not understood by most.  This torture applies to the various exclusions and the brutality of majorities and minorities within our own and against the ‘other’ in our world.  The effects come to song.

I absolutely love this song “Memories” with lyrics below the video.  It is mixed English and Korean.   You can get an idea of her vocal abilities and style.  T’s got it going on!

I also include more video songs and an INTERVIEW in ENGLISH below.

WONDER WOMAN –  Here ‘T’ sings/raps about female empowerment !!   She says:  “Dem wonder, Dem wonderin’ but I’m nappy-headed illegal Rasta.  YEAH!!

AS TIME GOES BY –  a love-song ballad sung in English

TO MY LOVE – R&B ballad sung in Korean

INTERVIEW IN ENGLISH from 2002

EXCERPT from ‘MONSTER’ in English:

Kabuki 歌舞伎 – the Great Bandō Tamasaburō 坂東 玉三郎

Kabuki 歌舞伎 is a traditional Japanese dance/theater performance art, enjoyed as an avante-garde (even as it was developed) form which developed gradually over various political scenarios into its present form.

Originally performed by both women and men, it soon began to be primarily performed by young men with physical beauty as well as women. In the middle 1600s, the shogun of Japan banned Kabuki because of riots due to the audience members fighting over beautiful men and women (there was no strong heterosexist exclusionary division of imagination at this time in history, much like the ancient Greek and much of the old Ottoman, Roman and Hasburg civilizations, as an example).

Soon women were banned from performing and cross-dressing male actors, raised from a very young age, became the primary performers of Kabuki. The style is highly stylized, bizarre, and nuanced. Many of the story-lines came from Noh theatre, Puppet-performance called Noh, as well as traditional kabuki-intended storylines. Famous poems of their times, song styles from popular and elite forms, and the various instruments from the different art-dance genres, sometimes began to crossover, depending on what the Kabuki performers and productionists wanted to project to the audience.

Kabuki art forms are meant to evoke from the audience, an emotional participation. Some call-outs by audience members during performances are common at certain quieter performances. Kabuki actors want concentration on the forms, gestures and every nuance of movement, and also be transported to another world, as opposed to remaining ‘audience’ members. In this way, much of Japanese kabuki performance, similar to Noh theater, is not a mere ‘watching’ but a participation through sensitivity to movement as much as the story-lines.

Kabuki performance was briefly banned by the US and Allied Occupying forces after WWII, but it was reinstated in 1947. This, coupled with the devastation of Japan after the war and its concentration on re-building, as well as many Japanese institutions and people rejecting many of their old ways, intensified the downslide of kabuki popularity. However, helped by booming interest in kabuki by European, Australian/NewZealand, and American fans, kabuki did not completely die out and has remained an important cultural genre. The best performers are revered and maintained as cultural icons, even if only a handful.

Wikipedia has an excellent overview of this art: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabuki

I have inserted two videos out of the complete 3 in the series to one of the handful of great living modern performers of Kabuki- Tamasaburō Bandō 坂東 玉三郎. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandō_Tamasaburō_V – followed by a short clip from an interview with him.

The videos are narrated quite wonderfully by Peter Griffith and are from an excellent series of DVDs of Tamasaburo’s performances. On the DVDs, the narration can be turned off if you want to just become engrossed in the performance. For understanding what is happening in the pieces, the narration is quite helpful. These other traditional Japanese arts DVDs and other materials can be found at:

Marty Grosse productions: http://www.martygrossfilms.com/index.html

Farside Music: http://www.farsidemusic.com/

After watching, we could, then, discuss what Judith Butler has talked about in relation to coercive gender, sexual orientation, performance, and their relationship with ‘reality’ as far as freedom, art, expression, cultural difference, pleasure and life.

Kurdish Cinema: A video montage

Kurdish cinema has been exploding since the 1990s onto the world stage.  The first famous ‘Kurdish’ film in Europe and the US is A Time for Drunken Horses‘ –which won a Cannes Film Festival award.  Film has always been a medium, as with other arts, to communicate something.  In the case of peoples who have been in the world under oppressive conditions, film has been one of the most powerful art forms.  In places such as Turkey, the legal and cultural policies which forbid Kurdish cultural expression, has placed filmmakers under tremendous pressure to create their art, some indeed dying by the hands of the state through imprisonment, torture, and disappearance.  For some, they manage, through surviving harsh oppressive conditions, to create their art forms.  Warfare and the creation of the states which divided the Kurdish people created ways for Kurds in Europe, for instance, freedoms which would help move their art out into the world.

Since the 1960s, Yilmaz Güney of Turkey (1 April 1937 – 9 September 1984), has been considered the most famous and important Kurdish cinema director in what many Kurds call ‘Northern Kurdistan.’  Yilmaz Güney wrote his films in the Turkish language because the Kurdish language had been forbidden more vehemently then, than it is today.  His themes were decidedly Kurdish, although the word ‘Kurd’ or ‘Kurdish’ never appears in his film.  The authorities knew, however, and he was imprisoned and tortured since 1961.

During the tumultuous 1960s in Turkey, many young Kurds and Turks wanted democratic reforms and were dissatisfied with authoritarian capitalist regimes and many were associated with leftists movements during this time.  Güney was accused of harboring leftist film students and was jailed one other time in 1972 and in 1974, upon his release, he shot a judge whom he felt was unjust and he was subsequently arrested again.  He escaped prison in 1981 and fled to France.  During his time in prison, he created some of his best films, dictating to Turkish filmmaker Zeki Ökten (August 4, 1941 – December 19, 2009), scene by scene, to make the films and release them.  He died in France in 1984.  Among his films that are the most intensely remembered and praised include: Suru, Duval, Umut, and  Yol (1982)–which is the most widely loved movie among many Kurds and won the coveted Palm d’or prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1982.  Güney’s films tell unflinchingly dark, harsh realities of Kurdish life in what is now called Turkey, as well as in the borderlands within and between the four nation-states that rule much of where the Kurds have been for hundreds of years–Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.  All of these states continue to oppress Kurdish expressions and freedoms in their own ways.  Kurdish cinema is one strong way for the Kurdish people and those who sympathize with their plight, to tell their stories.

There have been many filmmakers such as Nezamettin Aric and from the Mesopotamia Arts Collective where filmmakers such as Kazim Öz and  Hüseyin Karabey have been making headways in Kurdish cinema since the 1990s.

The most famous and prolific of Kurdish filmmakers today is Bahman Ghobadi.  His ‘Time For Drunken Horses’ (2000) received critical acclaim worldwide and he has produced several films that have captured the attention of western cinema producers and administrators, which, after all, is the only way to be widely distributed and known.  My personal favorite of his movies is “Turtles Can Flyreleased in 2004.”

The first ever Kurdish film festival in the world, was held in London in 2001. It proved to be quite a success and Paris, Montreal, Melbourne and Hamburg followed suit a few years later.  In 2009, New York held its first ever Kurdish film festival while in Turkey, the first ever Kurdish film festival was held in Diyarbekir–considered one of the most heavily populated Kurdish cities in Turkey, in December 2009.

As Kurdish Cinema matures, it has begun to tackle more of the complexities of oppression, and how within Kurdish cultures’ own histories of certain oppressions such as sexism, is a mix of what has been traditional and is  intensified with the displacements, divisions, and the various states’ and globalization policies, including their versions of sexism, that affect Kurdish communal relations.  Ultimately the film-makers can point to the intense continuations that construct various forms of death–cultural, biological and gendered.  Kurdish cinema is said to be one strong avenue where the resistance of this is done by telling the stories and to hopefully invite reflection for alliances and change.

Links:
London Kurdish Film Festival

Bahman Ghobadi: Miji Films http://mijfilms.com/mijfilm/

The following is an introduction to Kurdish films, via videos from YouTube.

This first clip is a short news interview featuring the First New York Kurdish Film Festival held in 2009.

I’d like to add that our graduate school held a Kurdish Conference and Film Festival in 2004.

Here is the link:  http://www.kurdishrightsconference.org/index.html

This next video is a trailer for the Kurdish movie ‘Gitmek’ (Turkish language) entitled in English: My Marlon and Brando, directed by Huseyin Karabey.

Here is an video of an interview with the director of My Marlon and Brando,  Hüseyin Karabey, interlaced with scenes from the movie.

This video is a montage by Azad Kanjo on YouTube, working with some of the more prominent films from 1978 to 2007.

İsmail Beşikçi – Academic Dissident

İsmail Beşikçi, a sociologist in Turkey, has spent a lifetime as a dissident.  He was the only non-Kurdish person in Turkey in the 70s, who spoke out against the mistreatment and brutality of the Turkish state attitude and policies toward their Kurdish population, especially in Southeastern Turkey where most of them have lived.

Because of his activities, he has spent many years in jail.  His first jailing was 17 years.  And it was not just languishing in a modern prison and watching television.  He was tortured.  Even as he was released after this first imprisonment, none of his views toward the issues changed.  He is a true lion in the den of sorrows and state domination over citizens.

Still today, the problem is not settled. Still today, people cry in Turkey.  But the problem is not ethnic or religious.  These things are made into problems.  Dr. Besikci is Turkish.  He sees the miscalculation and the array of strategies meant to keep old mechanisms in the Turkish state maintained, feeding the pockets of certain elites who do not want to change and remain wealthy and powerful.  But there are those in the Turkish government and in the Turkish society, who have fought bravely.

In the summer of 2008, I had the privilege of having lunch with him and other Dersim Alevi and Sunni Kurdish scholars and activists in Ankara, Turkey.  For two hours, we had conversations about how Americans could help and what possibilities there were and what he thought needed to realistically happen in Turkey for things to change for the Kurdish people in Turkey.  We also thought what he thought would happen as things were going.  Most Kurds and Dersimians in Turkey, consider him as ‘giant as a mountain’ as one of my interpretors phrased it.  Considering that he is a very small statured, small-framed man, I could still see his power in his convinctions, making his heart and mind huge.  He has spent a lifetime writing for the rights of people, especially who have come from Eastern Turkey.

İsmail Beşikçi is a beacon of strength, commitment and resistance for what must be done.  He has not wavered.

You can read further here:

http://www.organizedrage.com/2008/08/interview-with-ismail-beikin-life-time.html

Enka 演歌: Jero ジェロ & Keiko Fuji 藤 圭子

演歌 Enka – (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enka is a traditional style of Japanese song, becoming intensely popular beginning in the 1940s. It’s tradition comes from different strands of more indigenous forms of Japanese ‘speech singing’ and ryukoka, Portuguese fado, and with its postwar Japanese sensibility, developed into modern balladry called ‘enka.’ Its melodies are decidedly American with hints of fado and ryukoka. Its themes are usually of sadness, separation and acceptance of loneliness. Naturally, as a child growing up bi-racially Black and Japanese in 1950s and 60s Japan, these enka were my friends who understood me, amidst the much of the racism both myself and my mother endured during those times in Japan.

Fuji Keiko 藤 圭子 sings: 新宿の女  Shinjuku no Onna (a Woman of Shinjuku) from 1969 (Yes, I was there then and loved this song! )

Translation of first verse:

If I were to be able to become a man

I wouldn’t throw women away.

For a butterfly of the neon lights

Kind words had been dyed into my heart

I was so stupid, I was so stupid

To be betrayed.

The night is cold, for the woman of Shinjuku

In February 2008, something quite remarkable sprang up in the Japanese music scene. It was because of a person who was thrust into the Enka music tradition with a new look, new image, and breaking the traditions of separation between genres, cultures, and race in Japan. A very young African-American/Japanese biracial singer, rose to number 4 in the music charts in Japan. He did not rise there with J-pop (Japanese popular music), but he did this singing a traditional enka song. Not only this, but in the introductions and instrumental interludes between versus, he dances in hip-hop with other back-up dancers. His dress is not the traditional kimono, but American hip-hop attire. It broke genres and codes and traditions, yet at the same time, it has re-introduced a traditional Japanese music genre to millions of young people who do not listen to enka and ignores it. There has been an enka revival.

Jero ジェロ, was born Jerome Charles White, Jr. in Pittsburgh, PA and grew up with enka; encouraged to sing it by his Japanese grandmother Takiko. I, being African-American/Japanese biracial, am very very taken and happy with Jero’s presence. I grew up with enka. I knew of other biracial kids my age in Japan who sang pretty good and wanted to be enka singers. But they were quickly admonished to give up those dreams. We live in different times. But as you can hear in the interview with Jero in the YouTube videos, the record company management struggled with how to put it forward. Yet I credit the fact that they did struggle and moved forward with it, taking risks to open Japan.

Part of the fear is always a ‘contamination’ of a ‘pure’ tradition. But most people who have reflected on history, politics, and power relations, and how cultural forms are introductions of a combination of forms that have always been multiple and from different cultures and times, this purity is nothing but a space to practice dominance and static forms of culture. However, it is important for me, and I think all of us, to understand that we also need traditions. Some traditions need to be respected and considered sacred. But this does not mean that there cannot be diversity in regards to that tradition.

Jero has broken boundaries, and as well, re-introduced enka back into Japanese popular culture. It is also an in-your-face adoption of another American art-form (his hip-hop dance and attire) which further introduces African-American-ness into the Japanese culture as well. This breaks much of the boundary between what is considered acceptably ‘American.’ For sure, in most nations other than North America, ‘American’ means white. Japanese indigenous hip-hop and rap culture are seen as reserved for the Japanese fringe and rebels. But this has slowly been changing due to artists such as Pushim http://www.pushim.com/index2.html and Rhymester http://www.rhymester.jp/ . As in other nations, hip-hop and rap begins as a musical form that resists and counters the homogenizing, flattening mainstreaming of what is acceptable and palatable as ‘normal’ and ‘good’ in a particularly dominant fashion. In Japan, as disillusionment and exclusions, resistances and radical thinkers exist and are marginalized, hip-hop and rap have also played the same role in providing music that resists all of those things.

Jero, for being such a young fellow, has some very wise things to say in the interview.