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

Saturday, April 30, 2016

International Jazz Day!

I come from the John Cage School of Jazz..... you know, just open your ears and it's all music, it's all jazz, I don't need no more... but if you do, check out this killer performance by Snarky Puppy.  The keyboard player is..... I cried with joy and awe.  Give it up for these players.

I am really just passing this on from one of my former students, film director and all around genius Randy Moore.  Gracias!

Cuba - La Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso

Go back to the blind men and the elephant story and keep that in mind....
How a place values the arts is one of the keys to how I see that place.  Cuba was quite impressive in that respect.  Music, art, theater and dance are a part of the social fabric and one can feel their pulse everywhere.  Obviously, there are many levels from street art to high art, so.... why not start at the top with this incredible theater, right next to the capital building, La Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso.
The building is a work of art unto itself.  Really, many works of art combined and woven into a spectacular setting in which to present music, theater and dance.
Alicia Alonso, now 94, is a Cuban prima ballerina assoluta and choreographer. Her company became the Ballet Nacional de Cuba in 1955.  She remains one of the most important figures in the dance world.

Just as an aside, think of all the exemplary figures this island has produced in the world of arts, sports, medicine, literature, etc.... OK, back to the building.
The theater is over 100 years old, but the renovations were just completed and the building reopened in January of 2016.  Our timing proved to be impeccable.
It seats 1500 and the restoration is spectacular.  Looking directly up into the domed ceiling.
 Every detail, exquisitely rendered.
Up the stairs.....
To the Grand, and I do mean grand, ballroom.... actually, this is just half of it, as it is ell shaped.
This building is about as fine a theater as one could find anywhere in the world.  I was blown away.
There were additional halls and performances spaces bustling with activity.  High art..
And the view out the front windows, art of a different sort.  It never ends.
¡Viva Alicia Alonso and her legacy!  Be sure to see all the cars over at Casa Colibri.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Cuba... where/how to begin?

Ah, Cuba!  I almost have no words.  It will take a few days to process and recover.  I hardly know where or how to begin.  With the people? the music? the politics? the dance? the history? the food? the affluence? the poverty? The cars?
What comes to mind is the classic story of the blind men and the elephant. "Well, blind man, have you seen the elephant? Tell me, what sort of thing is an elephant?' Thereupon the men who were presented with the head answered, 'Sire, an elephant is like a pot.' And the men who had observed the ear replied, 'An elephant is like a winnowing basket.' Those who had been presented with a tusk said it was a ploughshare. Those who knew only the trunk said it was a snake; others said the body was a granary; the foot, a pillar; the back, a mortar; the tail, a pestle, the tuft of the tail, a brush."
One might think that living in Oaxaca would have prepared me better for absorbing and assessing a culture.  Think again.  Cuba is too deep, too rich and too vast to take in on a single visit.  I assume it will be like Oaxaca, years of exploring and researching, only to barely scratch the surface.  But that's just the way it is.  The world and her peoples are all just so damn interesting and unique.
We were lucky to have two wonderful guides, journalist Abel Gonzalez Alayon,
And man of the street, Dayan Puiq Suside.
These two were perfect bookends, both with insights and perspectives that we never would have gotten if we were just on our own.  Dayan walked us through La Habana Centro, a funkier part of the city.
And Abel, with his vast knowledge of damn near everything Cuban, took us through La Habana Vieja, Old Havana including the Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso.
We spend hours together and the more we learned, the more there was to learn.
In looking through the photos, well over a thousand, I discovered that most of them were of people.  Lots of them were shot holding the camera at hip level, shooting blind.
I practice this all the time and well, lots of the shots work.  Not everyone was as beautiful, but wow, there were enough gorgeous men and women to make one wonder what they were doing so right.
People were warm and friendly.  There was music everywhere.  And they were all so good, it was heaven.
We saw dancing like never before.  There were only about a zillion tourists.  The ritzy parts of La Habana rival any city in the world.  Damn, I was in a shop that had watches going for over $8,000 US.  We had a beer instead for $1.50.  Lots to process so be cool, plenty more to come.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Where in the world?

Off on a little side trip to an absolutely fascinating place.  Where?  Just wait.  You'll see.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Practice random acts of kindness....

It is so nice to walk down streets and to see the ever changing street art, the art that raises one's spirit and makes one think.
This person has spread these messages all over the place.  Roughly translated..."We want our lives."
"Night or day, naked or dressed, in the house or on the street, respect our lives."
 "Live with love, don't die for it."

I consider this to be a Public Service Announcement.  Gracias!  Consider yourselves warned.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

¿Dónde está la fiesta?

Where's the party?  Wherever these guys go.  Piñata at the ready.
There is an army of these workers who clean the streets and pick up trash and they are amazing! 
They wield their brooms or escobas, handmade from otate, a bamboo-like grass from the mountains.  And they are so accurate in creating swirling winds to direct the street trash exactly where they want it.  And so much quieter and nicer than a gas-powered blower, so ubiquitous in El Norte.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Best political slogan evah?

 Roughly, "Enough already with the rats."
 It could be used almost everywhere.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Monday, April 11, 2016

Remembering Alvaro Carrillo

I love that this place values its homegrown heroes and, in particular, as a musician and composer, that every year, one of Oaxaca's great composers, Alvaro Carrillo is always remembered and celebrated.  These wreaths were presented to his statue on April 3rd, the anniversary of his death  in 1969.
He wrote over 300 songs and some are all time classics, like "Sabor a mi."  There are lots of versions,  This one has a very nice feel to it.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Just your average Saturday

Everyday life is so rich and vibrant here. 
Just seeing colors like this walking down the street makes you feel good.
It's all art
I had to kill a few minutes and all of these shots unfolded.
A classic setting.
Quinceanera and bodas, memorable days for lots of folks.
Always such a sweet sight.
"We are lookin' fine."
How was your Saturday?

Friday, April 8, 2016

Para todo mal, mezcal

"Para todo mal, mezcal,
y para todo bien también”
“For everything bad, mezcal; for everything good, the same”
Some mezcals are selling for up to $300 US a bottle, but when you buy from the source, the price can be as low as $3.50 for some of the very best.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Danza de los Viejitos - Dance of the Little Old Men

The danza de los viejitos is a big part of carnaval in Teotitlan del Valle.  For each of the five days of celebration they show up and are the center of attention.
Not only do they organize the dancers and dance themselves, but they also deliver non-stop comments that make everybody laugh. 
I wish I knew what they were saying, but I think they can pretty much get away with anything.
Maybe next year. 
However, these two viejitos were in fine form.
Here's some video.
Another one of those wonderful Mexican traditions. 
Any culture that celebrates little old men (and women) is where I want to be.