Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Mini update.

In between swallowing bug spray (Note to self: chasing a fly around the apartment spraying a can of ant & roach killer is not the best idea)....

I got to see Ghetto Songbird rock out:

The venue wasn't that great (I think I was inside a random room in somebody's house) but I've realised there's something about watching a black chick (yeah, I said it!) rock out:

She sounds a little like Skin from Skunk Anansie. She gave me her EP, which I will listen to at some point.

As well as working on my novel. I'm really focusing on my character development at the moment and sorting the majors from the minors. Sounds easy, but it's actually tough work...whose to say a minor won't actually turn out to be a major later on in my story? So many ideas and twists and turns for this novel. I know it will be finished, but there are some days when I feel I over think everything and nothing gets done/decided. Aiming to nip that in the bud! But I'm reading and learning so much - which is always good.

Went to Duafe hair salon - apparently it's Jill Scotts haunt when she's in town. Didn't see Jill and didn't take any photos (I was too busy getting a head massage and my natural tresses smothered in some mango smelling goodness!), but they have a gallery of magzine covers and features where they styled the hair. So I was in good hands!

Thought for the day:
+ =

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Interviews: Kenny Lattimore & Deborah Cox

I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing both Kenny Lattimore and Deborah Cox a couple of weeks ago.
For Kenny Lattimore's interview please click here:
(if you like what you read click the 'like' button at the end of the article)

For Deborah Cox's interview please click here
(if you like what you read click the 'like' button at the end of the article)

*For more of my journalism, click here

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Laura Izibor - Live!

Last night I went to World Cafe Live (a sort of up-market Jazz Cafe), to see Laura Izibor perform. I was fortunate to meet and interview her some time last year (I've got a small clip of her singing James Brown 'Sex Machine' acapella on my dictaphone lol), so it was really good to finally see her perform. She was due to be on stage at 8pm, I arrived at about 7:20 as I was meeting some people and having dinner at the venue. I tried gumbo for the first time, it was alright, nothing to write home about - but was told that I need to go to Louisiana for some real gumbo.

I'd heard a few tracks from Laura's album so knew that I was going to hear some really good music, but what was also great about the show was Laura herself. She was conversational, charming and funny. I've been in her presence before but only for an hour or so, I knew she was down-to-earth but seeing her on stage was great: the singing, the talking, the 'stutting her stuff'. She was so at ease with herself and genuinely loving what she does and appreciative of the people who love her music. So easy to forget she's only 21 years of age!

It's almost soul-cleansing to hear real music today. There is so much junk and mish-mosh about I cannot get away from it. If it's not on the radio, it's on the TV, if not there then somebody somewhere is blasting audio nonsense for my poor ears to hear. (All genres I like are affected, with the exceptions of reggae and soul...not too much there - but then you'd really have to be able to sing, no auto tune to cover you - literally!) And to hear good music, live - wow, there is no comparison!

I was planning to stay and get an autographed copy of her CD and a photograph, but the queue was ridiculous!

Anyway enough ramblings from me. I didn't get any really good shots as I was sitting in a decent spot for viewing purposes, but not really for a phone camera or a Casio that isn't really a professional pictures kinda camera!

So enjoy the videos instead (I managed to get a full performance of 'Mmmm' - which used to be my [only] favourite Laura Izibor song, but since this evening I have added to the list)

'What Would You Do'

*I'm not sure what this one is called, but enjoy anyway...

'Perfect World'

I had to split the Mmm peformance in two because of the size.

'Mmm Part One'

'Mmm Part Two'

She gave us a little treat by performing a bit of 'Real Love' by Mary J. I wish I had caught the change from Laura's song 'Shine' to 'Real Love' because it was brilliant, but so unexpected. So here's what I got before my memory card finished:

'Real Love'

Hope you enjoyed!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Philadelphia: Deborah Cox & Kenny Lattimore Live

I attended a free performance on Saturday at a place called Penns Landing, featuring two fantastic soul/r n b singers. (I doubt London would ever put on a free concert with a platinum-selling artist.)

The performance started at 3pm with other artists, but the headlining acts were on at about 7:30pm, so that's when I decided to turn up. I went with a friend and we were running a little late (say 30 minutes lol), but we still managed to catch some greatness. There were people of all ages there and almost everybody and their grandmother had brought their own foldaway chair!

Deborah Cox is gorgeous and amazing. I've been listening to her music since I was 12 or 13 (she got me at 'Sentimental') but this was the first time I had seen her live. I had heard some tracks from Kenny as well and loved his stuff; but as of last weekend I am OFFICIALLY a Kenny Lattimore fan.

Deborah was already on stage when we arrived and we could hear her belting out those notes as we made our way to the front: through a trail of people, down some steps, down some more steps, finally squeezing into a spot at the front somewhere. (The lady at the side, with the blonde hair, wasn't standing on anything - that's just how tall she was...I did wonder why she was so close when she was so tall...could have made more room for shorter people!).
Anyway. Deborah C was belting out those tracks! We caught her in the middle of a new song 'Did You Ever Love Me', from her new album The Promise. She then went on to sing 'We Can't Be Friends' (the track she did with R.L. from Next). I have a mini-clip and want to apologise for the distortion (I was too close to the speakers!)

The crowd were really into it, singing along and so happy to be there! It was great to watch DC charm the crowd, she was completely comfortable on stage and having a good time. Midway she paused to talk with the crowd and introduce the band. Legendary producer/songwriter Shep Crawford was there playing the keys! DC was even taking song requests. 'Same Script, Different Cast' was one of the final songs she performed (originally a duet with Whitney). Whitney was not there and though she didn't sing it all, DC held her own.

Her last song (to which there was an instant reaction from the crowd) was 'Nobody's Supposed To Be Here'. Due to lack of space on my camera, or my lack of good filming (can't remember which!) I wasn't able to get it all - but I did manage to get a miniclip to show exactly why Deborah Cox is still loved and why artists who can truly perform live are always the best! Take note RhiRhi (again I apologise for the minor distortion; just ignore that please):

Next up was Kenny Lattimore, smooth, cool Kenny:
*There was a woman with big hair in front of me, bobbing up and down to the music, so I didn't get as many (good) shots as I would have liked. But this is one of the few decent ones.

I'd never seen him perform either but he was also great. A real entertainer: charming (singing well and posing for shots at the same time - this man knows what he is doing!) and funny. Whilst plugging his latest album Timeless (a tribute to artists from before), he waxed lyrical on why it's so important to keep music like this alive (and I agree with him!)

He came on performing Days Like This, he was filled with so much energy; he was fun to watch:

Really enjoying himself on stage, somehow in singing and dancing on stage he managed to remove his sunglasses and hat:
He also performed Never Too Busy and For You, songs requested by the audience. My camera died on me, so had to take the next few mini clips with my BB phone (which doesn't do his voice justice at all!) A snippet of For You which went down extremely well with the audience and myself (I think I found my wedding song!):

As he performed this song I caught a lady in the audience sobbing her heart out:

He also performed some tracks from the latest album: You Are My Starship, It Aint No Use and Everybody Here Wants You (beautiful song!):

*The distortion on the high note was the fault of my BB camera - not the vocalist.

A lot of the audience were shouting out Michael Jackson songs for him to perform, so he did a little tribute:

Closing with Weekend, the hat found its way back on his head:
Next came the jacket:
And finally the glasses:

Afterwards we went to get something to eat and ended up at a lovely little Malaysian restaurant in town. The thing about me and food is that I will often experiment and because this place had been reviewed so many times, I was confident:
When my meal came, it looked delicious (from a distance):
But on closer inspection, it started to look a little weird. I was trying out these noodles I'd never tasted before 'Pearl noodles' and my eyes just weren't appreciating their resemblance to a certain crawly thing:
And my tastebuds weren't really feeling the chewy texture either. I don't care what Time Out New York has to say about the 'irresistible chewy fat noodles'; I could resist:

And I did!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Philadelphia: Harlem Book Fair 2009

The drama (that I often create for myself) started early yesterday morning. I was at the bus station on time, went to the ATM and tried to get cash for my trip - I was rejected a total of 6 times, at two different machines. To cut a long story short, I tried to call my bank (didn't realise I had to notify them! I can shop in Japan and not even need to be in the country - so annoying.), they kept me on hold for so long I ran out of credit. By this time I was already queuing to board, with no money! So, I made a judgement call: left the queue, jumped in a cab and told him to 'step on it' (yes I did!)

After much panicking and faffing about I got some cash, hopped back in the cab and speeded down the roads back to the bus station. The taxi driver was a star, I had to tip him! As I left his car I learned two things: 1) this taxi driver was a lot cheaper for two journeys than the original car that dropped me off! and 2) the bus service is flexible, I didn't have to get on the 9am bus, as long as I had my ticket I could pretty much get on any bus (as they ran every half hour)...had I known that I wouldn't have wasted all my credit and getting myself into a frenzy!

So, I finanlly managed to get on one of these:*web photo

It only took two hours, to get to my destination:Was a good feeling to see this upon leaving the bus station

Took a yellow cab to get to Harlem, as it was a bit of a distance (even if it was 2 minutes, I still would have taken a yellow cab lol):
There were so many things going on at the book fair: talks, performances, book sales, panel discussions, author readings - I had to make choices. The first author talk/panel I attended was 'Killing Me Softly - How Publishing is Repressing the African-American Literary Market'. Moderating the discussion was author Gloria Mallette; sitting on the panel were authors:
I'd never heard of these writers before, but the discussion was good. They were talking about the treatment of African-American writers, in comparison with white writers. Though they were focusing on African-Americans, the same could be applied to black British writers as we also face severe discrimination within the publishing world. One of the major issues to come up, were the 'lumping together' of all AA writers, regardless of their genre. When it comes to stocking in bookshops, libraries, even selecting jackets for books. I've never been keen on the 'Black Writing' section in bookshops and libraries and like the authors were saying 'Black Writing' isn't even a genre.

When we write, our protagonists are black yes and some of the issues we cover might be cultural, but generally we do write about universal issues: love, death, relationships, friendship, loss, fun, shopping, celebration etc. Violence and sex as well, though these are not the only topics we write about or want to write about, nor should these be the only topics that are hailed/promoted as 'black writing' - just like rap and r n b are not the only genres of music that we excel in. Bottom line, just like other writers fiction written by black authors exists in more than two genres (i.e. urban lit and erotica). There was also the question of whose to blame when it comes to the limitations put on (some) black authors: the authors, the readers or the industry?

They also spoke about the decision to self-publish or to go with a small/large publishing house. Essentially it is up to the individual, but they wanted to drive the point home that if you decide to self-publish you effectively go into business for yourself and (often, if not inevitably) allow yourself less time to write.

After that I listened to a panel discussion entitled: 'Doin' It: Promoting & Selling Your Book Online' which was moderated by Maitefa Angaza, Managing Editor of African Voices. On the panel we had: Lisa C. Moore, Marcia Pendelton, Jeff Rivera and April Silver. All panelists had great things to say, but Jeff and April really stood out for me; both were informative and full of ideas and advice.

After the discussions I was hungry, so went in search of some food:I was sooo tempted to eat the fried food...but opted for something a bit more healthy. I ended up here:
and got a mango chicken wrap, with salad and ice tea:
I went to my final event, a tribute to poet and teacher Abiodun Oyewole. I didn't stay till the end but it was interesting to see the different poets perform and tell their own stories about how they met and why he means so much to them. Two poets stood out for me.(unfortunately I didn't get photos). The first: a young lady by the name of Rita, she looked wonderful dressed in a simple white strapless dress, a layer of white pearls adorning her neck. She recited a poem called 'Tears', a poem about men respecting women and women forming bonds with one another. She said a lot, but my favourite lines:

'Blood is thicker than water, but water flows more freely and stains less deeply'


'Our well-being is more important than a king to inhabit a kingdom that was already complete.'

The second: a man by the name of Jamal St. John. He didn't give a title, but his poem was inspired by a young man in a barber shop who said he was voting for Hilary Clinton, because Barack wasn't 'black enough'. His performance was humorous and passionate; I really liked his poem, he had me at:

'Blackness can't be equal parts Harvard and Harlem'

and lines like:

'Maybe he'd be black enough if he gave shout outs instead of speeches.'

'Maybe he'd be black enough if his wife's name was more hood like Condeleeza'

'Maybe if he made Nike change it's slogan to "just hoping"'

but he blew me away with his last line:

'Maybe then he can fantasise about being as black as Bill Clinton' (or something like that)

The event was good, wasn't as much networking opportunities as I would have liked (too many queues to talk to a select few!) and I didn't get to see as much of Harlem as I wanted, but it was nice to be there surrounded by books:



and Brownstones:
I ended up leaving later than planned, so jumped in a cab to catch the 7pm bus. Again I told the driver to 'step on it' and realised after almost crashing a few times, that line may work with a Philly driver but in NY it's best to just let the driver drive at his own (already crazy) pace!

*On a completely separate topic, I have a thing for yogurt coated pretzels:hope I can get these in the UK!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Phildelphia: Laundry & Prose.

So I had a pretty uneventful and yet productive Monday. I went to the launderette (or laundromat as it is known here) to take care of some laundry - oh, the joys! I'd never visited one of those places before, not even in the UK. So I was asking lots of questions and probably annoying the woman behind the counter, but she was really lovely :)

The reason I went to the laundromat in the first place, despite there being a washer and dryer in the basement of my apartment, is because that basement looks like something out of a horror film. I've more or less grown up on American movies (like a lot of ppl) and seen my fair share of horrors - so I know what I'm talking about when I say the place was C-R-E-E-P-Y man! Complete with shaky wooden staircase, dust and cobwebs for days!! I took two steps down, had a quick look around and hot-stepped it out of there!! I just need to show what I was expected to work with:
(ahem no way in hell!!!)

and what I chose to work with:

Aside from the mundane tasks of life and living I completed one of my short that I started aaages ago and it really should not have taken this long to write - but I had decided to combine two original (separate) ideas into one, so took a while to really get a feel of the plot and characters. I still may change the end, but at least it has an end now! It's sort of an ode to my late Grandmother and a sort of wish on paper: that I had known her like the protaganist in my story had known hers. But anyway that has now moved into final editing stages (yeah me!) and I'm on to my next short story....

...The idea for this was conceived many moons ago (ok, not that long maybe a few months), but it's great when that happens because I usually have a title by then. Which sometimes helps with the flow (well it does for me). I'm not going to give the title away but it has something to do with the colour:
and nope it has nothing to do with Alice Walker and her great book :)

Just really spent the day writing that, in between cooking and watching lots and lots of music videos oldies and newbies and dancing in the mirror (hmm, didn't really need to reveal that but anyway...) I'm really feeling Eric Benet's 'Femininity' and Ginuwine's 'Last Chance' Though I'm still wondering how Pitbull got a record deal - I don't make a habit of blasting artists in public (who knows I may have to interview them one day) but he really REALLY bugs me. I cannot stand his music!

On Sunday I briefly stopped by this artist and music event, where creative people are selling the items they have made and there is music and places to buy food. Though I didn't stay long it was decent. Anybody who knows me well, knows that three of my favourite things are cakes, candles and earrings and they had them all at this event!

(Homemade) Cakes:

(Homemade) Candles:

they came in all different scents: Vanilla, Orange, Apple, Raspberry even Gingerbread and had little molds. The Gingerbread actually had little Gingerbread men molds which was pretty sweet.

As for the earrings: