The here and now... and what and why

Complacency is a trap. At least that’s what I was thinking when I up and left the comfort of a Yankee prep school gig, where I taught music, amongst other things, for 28 years. There was also that life long career as a composer, musician and artist.

First, it was a year in St. Thomas, USVI, working as a reporter and shooting photography and then, a year in San Agustin Etla, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Time passed.
More time passed and a year back in the Athens of America followed by a hasty return to Oaxaca where it is all happening.
A couple of years in San Sebastian Etla and now, just down the road in San Pablo Etla. Life is good.

Click on an image to see it larger.
For additional photography please visit my flickr page.
You can find my music on Jango (World & latin - Worldbeat) and at iTunes and most online stores.
¡Soy consciente de todas las tradiciones del Internet!
If you are coming to Oaxaca, please contact me for tours or advice.

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo
The view from Corazon del Pueblo

The hereafter re me

My photo
Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico
Musician, photographer, videographer, reporter, ex-officio teacher, now attempting to be a world traveler

Friday, August 29, 2008

Politcs, Politics, Everywhere

A key ruling from the Mexican Supreme Court

from McCatchy

MEXICO CITY — Mexico's Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to abortion-rights legislation on Thursday in a decision likely to reverberate across the rest of largely Roman Catholic Latin America.

Girls have a right to not be mothers," argued Justice Genaro Gongora Pimentel, when he outlined his decision on Tuesday. "Criminalizing abortion discriminates against women, and it has never been proven that the product of conception is protected (by the constitution).

Sunday, August 24, 2008


This is a pretty definitive piece - a musical music stand.
The more I photograph the music stands (atriles) the more I like them and the more my appreciation for the artesanos grows. Each one has many hours/days/weeks of thought and work in it.
It is fascinating to see how the techniques and architectures developed over time. The early ones were more delicate. Over time we developed better ways to construct and ship them. The parts are small and all color coded unlike the first ones that were all glued together.These are all by Jesus Sosa Calvo and family. They have made 28 of them. All different and all wonderful.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

For every atril

For every atril there is a story and often there are many connections and much advance work.

Agustin Cruz Tinoco is very well known and famous for both his carving and his painting. He and his family are the only artesanos of note in his barrio, San Agustin de los Juntos, which is relatively near the airport. His pieces used to be plentiful - and very expensive. I don't remember seeing much of anything by him last year.

Ramon Fosado, who was one of my Oaxacan mentors - I called him the repository of all things folkloric - took me to find Agustin the first time and he agreed to make this fine Christo from pine and cedar.Then, we agreed that he would make four more in exchange for a clarinet and a valve trombone for his sons. At the time, as a music teacher, I knew the ropes and had good access to fine instruments and I did my homework. I showed up with a beautiful wooden Selmer clarinet and a Bach (I think) trombone, but Agustin was away and had left his kids in charge.The instruments were expensive and I am no pushover when it comes to negotiations. I have paid gringo prices, willingly, sometimes, but part of the business is the banter that precedes closing the deal.So there we were, the kids and me, and I wanted an additional piece (a magnificent ark filled with animals) to balance out the deal. Both boys were good musicians, Miguel, the clarinetist in particular and they were so happy with the instruments they were willing to do anything. They said, "Our father will kill us, but he isn't here and he will have to catch us first. Let's do it!" They proceeded to play one of my favorite tunes, "La Pinotepa" and all we parted with smiles on our faces.

Monday, August 18, 2008

La Llorona - Lila Downs

Lila is a oaxaqueña. This is a beautiful version of one of Mexico's classics, one of her trademark songs. Check her out in Julie Traymor's movie "Frida."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Melchor Melchor Calvo

This atril (music stand) by Melchor Melchor Calvo of San Martin Tilcajete is one of the finest in the collection. It is remarkable in several ways. First, the main column with all the figures is carved from a single piece of wood. Secondly, it is an embodiment of many things Oaxacan: the base of three ollas (pots) is a traditional symbol, the ornamentation is based on the archaeological site of Mitla, but most importantly, the clothing represents the different regions of the state from the mountains to the beaches.So there you have it, an amazing piece. Woodcarving, for which Oaxaca is famous, cooking and ceramics, for which Oaxaca is famous and clothing and indigenous cultures, for which Oaxaca is famous.

Melchor Melchor Calvo is certainly one of the finest carvers in San Martin, but now he is a full time policeman and not carving.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Maria Jimenez Ojeda

Here is an atril by Maria Jimenez, who is one of the finest painters in Oaxaca. She has received numerous prizes for her work and is displayed around the world. She is a quiet and shy woman, but the strong head of a San Martin Tilcajete artesano family. Her brothers, Aaron, Candido and Miguel all are carvers, but it is Maria's painting that sets their art apart. Her detail work is magnificent. You need a magnifying glass to read her signature.
There are two more very different atriles by Maria and her family and I will post them soon.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dos atriles mas

Here are two more music stands or atriles.

One by Jesus Sosa Calvo y familia - flowers and hummingbirds (flores y colibri)And A Nahual

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Certainly a sad couple of days as two real giants and great influences left us with great memories.
Bernie Mac in Spike Lee's The Original Kings of Comedy is a must see, as is the whole film. It is such an insight as to how different cultures laugh at different things... and at the same things.
Shaft... nuff said

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sopa de Hongos - Cuajimoloya, Oaxaca

I have a series of videos of the cooks of Oaxaca and here is a special one. Normally, I filmed the most famous cooks from the best restaurants. I would spend all day with them, from early in the morning, when we would go to various markets, through a day of cooking and then, at the end of the day, eating everything they had cooked. I know, it's tough work, but....

This is a restaurant up in the mountains in a village called Cuajimoloya, which is famous for its mushrooms. All kinds of mushrooms. The village is about 40k northeast of the city and is 25k up from the weaving village of Teotitlan del Vaille. The food was very simple, but absolutely delicious. It was a blast to film this woman just like the cooks from all those five star places.

OK, so it ain't Mexico

But look at those colors!
Shots of Carnival in St. Thomas, USVI. It is almost a month long celebration in April and they really do it right. Similar to Oaxaca during the Guelaguetza, El Dia or Navidad.

Monday, August 4, 2008

El Atril Projecto - The Music Stand Project

People often ask what I find so special about Oaxaca. Obviously, many things, but one of the main things is the art. I have been meeting and collecting the works of many artesanos for many years. Over ten years ago I started asking the carvers to make music stands or atriles. In the beginning it was difficult and no one would make one, but now.... I am known as the crazy gringo who likes atriles and people come out of the woodwork to show me what they have created.

I now realize I have to better document them and plan on doing so in the coming weeks. No easy task as there are quite a few of them now - some 65 and many are packed up, but with better cameras, it has to happen.

This is Margarito Melchor from San Martin Tilcajete. He had just brought this one into the city and was not sure if I would like it. What a crazy thought!

Here's another made right around the same time.