Category: Politics

Le Butcherettes’ Teri 'Gender Bender' Suaréz dares you

The singer taps her inexhaustible rage onstage. Offstage, she’s reflective as the band’s debut album ‘Sin Sin Sin’ lands Tuesday, with a Bootleg Theater gig following Wednesday.

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When Teri Suaréz sings a line like “you take my pretty dress off,” consider it a gauntlet thrown. Not at men, but at any institution or societal norm that would stand in her way. Her 21 years split between Denver and Guadalajara, Mexico, she possesses a voice that needs few instrumental adornments. “Dress Off” is delivered only with a snarl and an intensely aggressive rhythm, and Suaréz’s vocals are full of bravado and cultural confusion.

“It’s a threat,” she said during a recent conversation. “I dare you to come here and make me yours. That’s not just directed toward a man. It’s directed toward anyone. I’m not trying to be sexy. It’s a dare -- I dare you to try and screw with what I hold dear. So take my dress off.”

Suaréz is a literature fiend and left her philosophy studies for rock ’n’ roll. Le Butcherettes may have been born in Mexico, but the band is schooled in punk rock traditions. The act’s debut, “Sin Sin Sin,” will be issued Tuesday by local label Sargent House — and celebrated with a release show at the Bootleg Theater on Wednesday. With a rep for hectic live shows that border on performance art -- Suaréz accessorizes with fake blood and views the whole venue as an extension of the stage -- Le Butcherettes have already earned themselves a major support system.

“Sin Sin Sin” was championed by and recorded with Omar Rodriguez Lopez, an experimental artist known for his work in At the Drive-In and the Mars Volta. He connected Suaréz with drummer Gabe Serbian, who’s performed with the wide-ranging underground punk of San Diego’s the Locust, and last year Le Butcherettes signed a booking deal with William Morris Endeavor. A national tour supporting the Deftones will follow.

Talking last week in the courtyard of downtown’s recently opened museum devoted to the Mexican American experience, LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, Suaréz was the shy alter ego of her stage persona, whom she refers to as Teri Gender Bender. Suaréz apologized regularly for losing her train of thought, even wondering aloud if she has autism. Meet her on the street, and one would never guess Suaréz is the writer of sharp and primal bursts of melodic noise, songs that share an equal frustration and fascination with American culture, and occasionally feel like the opening shots of a class war.

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On eve of Nigerian elections and the opening of 'Fela!' in Lagos, Femi Kuti talks politics, legacy, and music

XZ4C2038_Julien Mignot
Femi Kuti
makes something more than music. His dozen or so album releases and hugely popular concerts (“one of the more powerful live shows on Earth,” according to the Onion) are imbued with the weight of family legacy and Kuti’s own individual intents. It is "music as message" in a way few acts take on these days –- protest and admonishment and hope all embedded in Afrobeat exuberance. In his own words, Kuti’s songs are his primary “weapon” in a lifelong struggle to bring awareness and resolution to the strife in his home country of Nigeria.

The eldest son of the great musician and activist Fela Kuti, Femi began his musical career at age 16 as a member of his father’s band. After Fela’s death in 1997, Kuti continued in his father’s footsteps, embracing outspoken activism, maverick musicianship and a relentless tour schedule. His newest effort, Africa for Africa (released April 12 on Knitting Factory Records), was recorded in the same studio where he first laid down tracks with his father.  

A direct return to his roots, the album embraces raw funk and deliberately dirty production -– a mix of joyous dance beats and deeply potent lyricism.  With the upcoming presidential elections in Nigeria on April 16 and the opening next week in Lagos of the Broadway hit “Fela!,” Kuti is raising his voice high, still seeking, through music, revolution, renewal and redemption.

Pop & Hiss: I’d like to hear your thoughts on music as a method of communication, a way to connect to the times. I think great music is always indicative of the moment that it’s made in. With that said, can you talk a bit about the intent of this particular record and ideally what you would like people to take from it?

Femi Kuti: I think the most important thing for Africans to understand, especially the young people of Africa to understand, is that all African countries, despite their political structures, are all one people. I want them to see that we are brothers and sisters and to try to love one another instead accepting this divide that exists for very stupid, ignorant reasons. We need to unite Africa, because we are so far behind the rest of the world. We need to take steps toward health and education for our children. We need to take care of ourselves and not rely on the West, on the rest of the world, to solve our problems.

Finally, people need to understand what 500 years of slavery did to Africa, what 50 years of colonialism did to Africa, what so many recent years of corrupt government has done to Africa. Young people, especially, need to understand this history in its context. They need to understand what people like Marcus Garvey, my father, my grandmother, people like this who sacrificed their time and their lives to fight for the emancipation of Africa.

People need to understand the past in order to step into the future. Africa has resources –- the human resources of great African doctors, athletes and artists -– collectively, as a nation, we have natural resources as well. We have what it takes to move into this future. I am trying to enlighten people on these issues and trying to encourage them to move forward.

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Haitian President-elect Michel Martelly sure knows how to make a music video

Galope When the Haitian presidential race began in 2010, those outside the country's political arena might have laughed at the prospect of pop singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly throwing his hat in the ring. After all, they wouldn't even take Wyclef Jean. Well, look who’s laughing now.

On Monday, the baldheaded crooner became Haiti’s president-elect, beating out opposition leader and former first lady Mirlande Manigat, capturing 68% of the vote, according to preliminary voting results. In our search to learn more about this famed pop-star-turned-politician, a longtime activist and political animal since the mid-'90s, we inevitably came across a silo of his old music videos.


If nothing else, they illustrate one very simple truth: the Haitian populace like politicians to have a little flair. In most countries, the sight of a Martelly, 50, hypnotizing us with his dance moves in neon summer wear could've been the fuschia-colored torpedo that sunk his career. Then again, maybe this kind of charming charisma, rhythmic aptitude and fondness for pink hats is just what natives in his disaster-torn country are looking for. Culled from the bowels of YouTube, we’ve dusted off a string of videos after the jump the feature Martelly parlaying his unbuttoned, early '90s swagger for all to enjoy.

 Photo: Michel Martelly   Credit: YouTube

--Nate Jackson

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Moby, Crystal Method top 'Dance for Equality' bill March 2 in Hollywood

Moby 2008 Ken Hively

Moby, the Crystal Method and artist Shepard Fairey will headline the Courage Campaign's “Dance for Equality” fundraiser on Tuesday, March 2, at Avalon in Hollywood in support of legal efforts defending same-sex marriages.

Other celebrities scheduled to  be on hand include “House” star Lisa Edelstein, who will host the evening; Oscar-winning writer-director Paul Haggis (“Million Dollar Baby,” “Crash”); and AIDS activist Cleve Jones. KCRW-FM program director and “Morning Becomes Eclectic” host Jason Bentley and DJ Dan also will participate.

Proceeds benefit the Courage Campaign’s efforts to overturn California’s Prop. 8 banning same-sex marriages.

Tickets are $25 in advance, available through the Courage Campaign’s web site, and $35 at the door.

--Randy Lewis

Photo of Moby performing in Malibu in 2008. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

Jon Bon Jovi named to president's Council for Community Solutions

Jon Bon Jovi Getty Images 
Bon Jovi fans, take heart.

New Jersey rocker Jon Bon Jovi may have missed the boat for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction this time around, but he’s in da club as far as President Obama is concerned.

Bon Jovi is one of 25 people newly tapped by the president for the White House Council for Community Solutions, his initiative that seeks to bring together individuals, nonprofit organizations, businesses and government to identify and address community needs.

Obama selected the rocker to be part of the group because of his work through his Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, which has helped create affordable housing for low-income families and individuals. In 2008, the singer and songwriter hosted a fundraiser for Obama at his Garden State home during the presidential campaign.

"These impressive men and women have dedicated their lives and careers to civic engagement and social innovation,” Obama said in a statement the White House issued Tuesday. “I commend them for their outstanding contributions to their communities, and I am confident that they will serve the American people well in their new roles on the White House Council for Community Solutions.  I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead."

The other council members include educators, entrepreneurs, corporate executives and religious leaders.

-- Randy Lewis

Photo of Jon Bon Jovi performing in Nashville in 2007. Credit: Peter Kramer / Getty Images.

Pop and Politics: Susan Faludi, Lady Gaga and the It Gets Better Project

GAGA_GETTY_IMAGES_3_Here’s an old-fashioned idea: pop culture is bad for you. Social arbiters have long worried  about what happens to people when they fall for noisy music, movies or a hot dance craze. The latest is the esteemed progressive writer Susan Faludi.  She’s caused an uproar in feminist circles by publishing a cover story in Harper’s magazine that skewers young feminists for not respecting their elders. One thing she blames for their brattiness is pop. 

“American Electra:  Feminism’s Ritual Matricide” is an oddly personal lament about intergenerational mistrust and mistreated legacies. Trashing young feminists’ interest in eyeshadow and queer theory, Faludi invokes the frightening specter of "the weightless, ahistorical realm of the commercial, a realm that promises its inhabitants a perpetual nursery where no one has to grow up."

Searching for a root to this problem, she settles on 1920s flappers -- scorned in their day for loving dirty blues and the tango -- and calls out every alarmist's whipping girl, Lady Gaga, as today's bad jazz baby.

I hate to take issue with Faludi, whose work I so admire. Other feminists have already rebutted her argument. But somebody’s got to speak from that weightless place, to give it some gravity.

Feminism has always tangoed cautiously with consumerism. Remember Gloria Steinem’s sunglasses, the dyed-purple T-shirts of the lesbian Lavender Menace, 1980s power suits, and the D.I.Y. zine empire of Riot Grrrl?  Sometimes the movement engaged with the mainstream; other moments imagined a different world. But in that world there was always music, a look, and a marketplace.

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Producer Bangladesh plots his pop domination, but not before settling differences

Bangladesh

Bangladesh has his sights set on “changing the game.” And he plans on doing this with a few unexpected muses.

Recently named one of six top urban producers at this year's BMI Urban Music Awards, the Atlanta-based beatmaker, whose birth name is Shondrae Crawford, has been slowly rising to prominence over the last decade by being the sonic mastermind behind songs from such artists as Ludacris, Ciara, Kelis, Missy Elliott, Usher, R. Kelly and Beyoncé -– he was responsible for the latter's most recent singles, “Diva” and “Video Phone.”

Crawford recently produced songs for Ne-Yo, Nelly and the Game -- and even a handful of beats for the new "Def Jam Rapstar" video game -– but it’s the upcoming work for a few divas that has him most excited: He is prepping to tackle projects from Beyoncé, Ke$ha and Brandy.

The producer was brought on board to work on Ke$ha’s follow-up album to “Animal” after meeting songwriter-producer Dr. Luke through a mutual friend. He said Luke, who’s penned hits for Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Britney Spears and his protégé Ke$ha, doesn’t want him to compromise his urban flair for the pop world.

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Ry Cooder 'Quicksand' single targets Arizona's SB 1070 immigration law

Ry Cooder Quicksand cover art

Ry Cooder has added his voice -- and guitar -- to the raging debate over Arizona’s recent SB 1070 law targeting illegal immigration with "Quicksand," a fiery song he posted on iTunes this week.

The veteran guitarist, singer, songwriter and world-music enthusiast sets the stage with a spoken-sung sketch of a ragtag group of people who start their northbound journey from Tamaulipas, southeast of Monterrey, Mexico.

With help from his son, drummer Joachim Cooder, the elder musician accompanies himself with gritty, bluesy electric guitar as he follows the group as they travel through the mountains along what’s known as the Devil’s Highway. After being abandoned by their coyote guide partway into the trek, one by one they lose friends until only two are still traveling when they reach Yuma, Ariz., where they are promptly picked up by a vigilante with deportation on his mind.

Well mister it’s 120 degrees back out there
It’s just me and the boy, the rest are gone
I think you’d take more pity on rescue pit bull dogs
Call us Charles and Bronson from now on

“The Devil’s Highway has been used by migrants traveling on foot for over 100 years,” Cooder said of the song. “You should try it sometime. Out there, temperatures can get above 130 degrees. If you fall down, you have religious hallucinations, then you die, cooking from the inside out. If you get lucky, you might make it to Yuma, but then what?”

Cooder tapped Latino artist Vincent Valdez to create the portrait used as the cover art for the single. All proceeds from sales of the track will go to the Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund.

-- Randy Lewis

Cover image: Vincent Valdez


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Dandy Warhols, Kyle Gass attempt to please at the Playboy mansion

Dandywarhols

Talk about a tough crowd. 

It's hard enough to keep the attention of any audience, but imagine you're the Dandy Warhols, and the spectators are partying in Hugh Hefner's yard at the Playboy mansion. In case that's not enough of a distraction, add in the fact that you're playing a party thrown by advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project.

Yet fortunately this party came with strict rules. Guests were given explicit instructions that no marijuana would be allowed on the premise. This meant that there was less of a certain aroma Thursday night at the Playboy mansion than there is at most concerts around L.A.

But as Dandy's keyboardist Zia McCabe assured the crowd of about 600, "Hey, we're great if you're stoned. And if you're not, we'll make you feel like you are."

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Zack de la Rocha 'brings out the youth' in protest against Arizona sheriff

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Reporting from Phoenix -- Zack de la Rocha, lead singer of the rock band Rage Against the Machine, helped lead a rally through the streets of Phoenix today in a bid to end the practices of an Arizona county sheriff who Rocha said had “deputized vigilantes” and created a “state of terror” for local Latinos.

Thousands of people marched about four miles from the Steele Indian School Park to the U.S. District Court of Arizona on Washington Street, chanting “No more Joe” and “Arpaio escucha, estamos en la lucha” –- which translates from Spanish to “Arpaio listen, we’re in the struggle.”

At issue is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s enforcement of federal immigration law. Some activists say he has unfairly targeted the Latino community. Arpaio says he is simply doing his job and told The Times in a phone interview that today's protest would not "deter" him from fulfilling his duties.

“Without the proper warrants, he raids the homes and workplaces of janitors and gardeners,” De la Rocha told demonstrators at the end of the rally. “At routine traffic stops he detains and deports mothers, violently separating them from their children, who are left abandoned.”

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