Category: Esperanza Spalding

Language, music and art: Santigold, Heems tackle urban experience

If Manhattan’s reputedly crumbling subway system really did collapse into the ground underneath New York University this weekend, the world would face a frightening loss of future discourses on situationist spectacle in Nicki Minaj and treatises on the lost wax poetics of early recorded cylinder music.

The 11th annual  Experience Music Project Pop Conference takes place this weekend in downtown Manhattan, drawing some 340 scholars, journalists, artists and activists to pontificate and more than 2,000 dedicated ears. It’s the event’s first time on the East Coast, and by far its biggest conference yet. Numbers for advance registrants were more than triple the previous high.

Three days of panels and punditry commenced a bit wanly Thursday night as an impressive quartet of musicians -- Angelique Kidjo, Esperanza Spalding, Santigold, and Heems from Das Racist --politely answered questions about their experiences as urban dwellers and listeners, posed by former Los Angeles Times pop critic Ann Powers. Pop Con’s theme this year is "Sounds of the City."

“I speak eight different languages,” the Benin-born Kidjo said, sparking the discussion with her great laugh. “I learned them all through music.”

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Grammy Awards provide a big boost for indie music

Arcade Fire-Grammy Robert Gauthier 
Arcade Fire’s album-of-the-year Grammy award on Sunday night for “The Suburbs” was a victory for a lot of people, and not just because it seemed as if the Canadian rock collective brought half the population of its native Montreal onstage during its show-closing musical performances.

It also was a win for the grassroots community of independent musicians and record companies to which Arcade Fire and its label, Merge Records, belong. Combined with the win in another of the top four Grammy categories -- jazz bassist-singer Esperanza Spalding’s upset for best new artist -- indie labels and artists came away from Sunday night’s ceremony with two major boosts to their self-esteem.

“A lot of the jaws that hit the floor when those two categories were announced were those of independents,” said Jim Selby, chief executive of Naxos of America, the independent Nashville-based classical label that racked up 35 nominations and took home 10 awards for its artists and distributed labels Sunday. “Independent artists winning against Eminem? A lot of people were thinking, ‘This is insane!' "

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