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

Monday, December 31, 2012

Art mirrors life

Just some examples of the old adage, "art imitates life" or is it "life imitates art?"  I always get it mixed up.
Danzantes de Pluma, the real deal.
And in rabanos.
Gold pectoral representing Mictlantecuhtli, the Mixtec God of Death.
Realized in radishes.
With the artist.
A Flor de Piña dancer from Tuxtepec
In rabanos,
 OK, not exactly the same thing, but the same position.  Hey, times change yet remain the same.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Goin' to the chapel...

What a fine moment.  We noticed this couple walking down the street with no entourage, no hoopla, just strolling on their way to...
As they walked, everyone's heads turned.  The bride's dress was so beautiful people just stared and smiled.  Notice how almost everyone's eyes are on her.
Soon she had a few of us asking if we could take her picture.
Her novio joined in the fun.
The exquisite dress (and the bride) were from Tuxtepec.
Afterwards, I imagined the stories they would be able to tell in the future.  "When your mother walked down the street in her bridal gown....."  Ah, memories.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

More Noche del Rabanos

One of the things I love about Oaxaca is people's inventiveness.  Listen, I know people are creative everywhere.  I have hung with artists my whole life.  Heck, I'm an artist if you count my music, photography and my life.  No, I guess what I marvel at here is the idea of making art from what is around us.  "Let's go out into the backyard and find some material to make some fabulous piece of art."  like... radishes, or corn husks, or dried flowers, or clay or branches, or palm trees.... the list is infinite.

And here, it gets passed down from mother to son, from father to daughter.  I have photographed this woman many times over the years.  We now recognize each other and she greets me with a smile.
Her work is always wonderful. 
I am sure she has won in the past, however, this year is was her son, Elpidio Adrian Gonzalez Lopez, who won one of the big prizes.  He came in first with this amazing band of 261 musicians... all girls! They represent six months of work.
As a former music teacher, I just love this, not only for the fact that it's a band, but for what it says.  One sees a few girls in the village bands, but not nearly enough.  So let's go for it!  Look at them all.
 Not only are there a lot of them, but look at the detail that each has.
I always used to encourage my girl musicians to show the boys how to do it.  The music world is too male dominated.  Too many male lead guitarists and drummers, so I taught them to fight the status quo.  And I always made friends by asking, "Name five composers."  "That's easy.  Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms and Carillo (one of Oaxaca's favorite)." "OK, now name five women composers."  They are there, it is just that most of the music history books were written by men, so we don't learn them.  So I say, "¡Viva la banda de las niñas!" 

Nadia Boulanger, Amy Beach, Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelsson, Meridith Monk,just to get started.  Here's a small list.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas in Oaxaca

What a glorious time of year to be here.  Yes, there are lots of special events, fiestas and activities, but the best thing about the place is simply a widespread sense of joy that seems to permeate everything.  I think it because these are celebrations that not only stress faith, but also family and community.  December 23rd and 24th exemplify this is to a fine point. 
First, there is la Noche del Rabanos, the Night of the Radishes, a celebration and competition, which gives a showcase to artisans who create using radishes, corn husks or dried flowers, rabanos, totomoxtle or flor imortal. 
These is a huge event and this year, the 115th anniversary, it drew 20,000 people.
After a quick cleanup of all the rabanos, the zocalo is made ready for Noche Buena, Christmas Eve. Posadas come from various churches around the city, each led by a band, then by a float depicting the search for an inn that would take them in, all followed by parishioners carrying candles. 
This is no somber procession, but a joyous, loud, exuberant outpouring.  There is much dancing.  There are fireworks, sparklers, pinwheels.  There are bands all playing simultaneously, but different tunes.  There are huge flatbed trucks with loud generators to carry and light up the floats.  It is the ultimate feel-good experience for Christmas Eve.  There is no commercialism, no politics, nothing but happy people all feeding off of each other happiness and enthusiasm.
In addition to Rabanos and Noche Buena, there was a meeting in San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya of eight different groups of danzantes of la Danza de la Pluma, an art auction, several parties and fiestas, so it may take a while to process and post, but there is a lull for a couple of days.
More mañana.....

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Before our eyes....

This group of dancers from Teotitlan del Valle has retired after three years.  It is an honor to be one of the dancers and much time, effort and money go into the endeavor.  Plus, they work hard.  The many appearances, the many long days of dancing, the confites, the wind blowing those headdresses.  They looked happy, but tired as they basked in the respect and appreciation of the the entire village when they danced for the last time.

I was lucky to see them many times.  So I thought I would go back through the years and pull up shots for comparison. All of them have gone through changes.  Some gained weight, some of the young boys sprouted up like weeds.  Men grew beards or shaved them off.  Cortez, Carlos Antonio Gutierrez Mendoza, and some of the boys started moustaches... sorta.
But what better place to start than with Malinche and Doña Marina, Rosa Angelica Hernandez Mendez and Leticia Martinez Gonzalez.  I think this is the earliest shot I have of them, dancing with Monctezuma.  Look how small they are.
An early 2009 shot of Leticia Martinez Gonzalez, Doña Marina.  Actually, the first time I saw her, there was a different Malinche, but then....
 Along came Rosa Angelica.
 The shots continue chronologically right through to 2012.
 A different day, a different outfit.
They always danced at the same time, coming from opposite sides and passing in the middle.
And here they are last week.  They've grown before out eyes.
 Each has a longer, more slender body.
 Gracias, Leticia.
 Gracias, Rosa Angelica.
 The final shot in beautiful light from a setting sun.
 I love this shot.  Even thought it was all over, she was still dancing, moving her feet.
Wonderful memories, for all involved, me included.  And Rosa Angelica and Leticia will have those memories forever and each, a pretty nice souvenir, a carved chair.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's beginning to look a bit like.....

C'mon, work with me.... the pup moved.
Big enough piñata?