The UK Corner

Urban Entertainment from a British perspective

The UK Corner Album review: Noah by Noah Stewart

Noah Stewart has built on the successes of his mentor Leontyne Price, Sir Willard White and Jessye Norman to become the first black musician to peak on the British classical chart. With his debut album, the 33-year-old Harlem born tenor has blazed a trail.

But he is more than a novelty. His rich voice has resonance and commands attention captivating the ear and the emotion as exemplified by the stirring Without a Song.

Inspired by Mario Lanza, the tenor who became a Hollywood movie star, and with arrangement from producers Steven Baker and Christian Seitz, the album includes operatic arias such as Recondita armonia from Puccini’s Tosca. On Pourquoi me Reveiller, from Massenet’s Werther, Stewart’s voice really shines.

But the album also includes the spiritual classic Deep River, and traditional standards such as Amazing Grace and Silent Night. Though he did not grow up singing gospel, Stewart’s voice hints at the blues/jazz scene associated with his New Orleans heritage.

His road to riches story includes study at LaGuardia High School where he developed his craft providing back up vocals for artists such as Hootie & the Blowfish, Mariah Carey and rapper Coolio. A scholarship led to further study at the prestigious Julliard School, and his debut album demonstrates the resulting seasoned vocal.

It seems ironic that while working as a receptionist at Carnegie Hall Stewart was advised against humming, but such a voice cannot remain silenced for long; indeed audiences are demanding to hear it live and recorded.

Stewart’s charming and sophisticated image help to sell a genre to new audiences. His humble beginnings make him relatable and the accessibility extends to the album and facilitates his mass appeal. The warmth of his tone means that his version of Leonard Cohen’s much-recorded Hallelujah sounds fresh.

Having performed around the world in roles such as Cavaradossi (Tosca), Don José (Carmen), Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly) and Rodolfo (La bohème), Stewart has established a reputation in the classical world. But on this album, the expressive power of his voice can convince new audiences that his talent is no act.

Noah is out now on Decca Records. Noah Stewart plays the Union Chapel on 22 May.

For more information visit www.Noahofficial.com or www.facebook.com/noahstewartmusic

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The Last Holiday A Memoir by Gil Scott Heron

The power of the late great Gil Scott Heron’s way with words is hard to ignore. His poetic ability makes this much anticipated book a joy to read. It not only engages, but it also educates. If it were just a biography tracing Heron’s 1950’s Southern roots, it would satisfy. But, it goes beyond a personal history to trace a national history in the story of Stevie Wonder’s successful campaign to have slain Civil Rights leader Dr Martin Luther King’s birthday declared a National Holiday.

From candid tales of his well-respected grandparents and parents, with their flair for sports, advocacy for academia or quiet personalities, to his relationships with his own children, we get a great insight into Heron’s influences. Aside from familial role models, iconic musicians such as Wonder made a huge impact on Heron’s world. It is fascinating to read about Heron’s longstanding friendship with Wonder or his brief encounters with a young Bob Marley and Michael Jackson while on tour.

There are many exciting tales from the road once Heron, who was awarded a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award this year, had made it big as a performance poet/musician signed to Arista records, and as an author of The Vulture.  But, his early years at university are equally noteworthy demonstrating musical prowess, a social conscience, and his defiant rallying voice in student politics at Pennslyvania’s Lincoln University.

Much lauded, cool and laidback, Heron’s determination and conviction to follow his dream of becoming a writer is inspiring. A few beautiful pictures add extra character to this already charismatic book. A world of jazz, race, and activism, it details how dreams became reality.

The Last Holiday ­– A Memoir by Gil Scott Heron, priced £20 is out now published by Canongate Books.

http://www.canongate.tv/the-last-holiday.html

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The UK Corner DVD review: The story of Lovers Rock

As the name suggests, this documentary produced by BFM Media and Sun Ra pictures, celebrates the sweet sounds of Lovers Rock. Director Menelik Shabazz narrates a tale of love and romance, which embraced South London in the seventies and eighties. The soothing sounds of romantic reggae sold the experience of immigration and migration, the sounds of the Caribbean on British soil via first generation British musicians and music lovers.

Actors such as Robbie Gee and Victor Romero Evans, Comedians Wayne Rollins, Kwaku, Mr Cee, Glenda Jackson and Rudi Lickwood, Sociologist Dr Lez Henry entrepreneur Levi Roots, author Neferatiti Ife, Journalist Snoopy and Presenter Eddie Nestor, reminisce from an insightful and informed perspective about the unique genre and participate in a series of skits covering its image.

Archive footage serves to educate and entertain about the groundbreaking scene and the network of iconic independent British reggae record labels such as DIP and Fashion Records – home to the late Smiley Culture, notable producers such as Dennis Bovell and Augustus Pablo, and the culture of Sound systems such as Coxon Sound. Viewers can learn about the impact of artists such as Peter Hunningale, Sylvia Tella, Carroll Thompson, Janet Kay, Aswad, Tippa Irie and UB40.

Lovers Rock formed the soundtrack to a generation’s rebellious teenage years as they sought to escape parental problems, and worked up a sweat dancing amid paraffin heaters. But the genre, which celebrated black pride, also witnessed a political heat against the backdrop of police brutality, the SUS laws, anti-racism marches, the 1981 Brixton riots and New Cross fire, which killed 13 black teenagers.

Recreated dances bring back fonder memories for contributors such as Comedienne Angie Le Mar. Recent live footage of performances by the likes of the late Louisa Marks, the late Jean Adebambo, Sandra Cross and newcomers such as Ava Leigh and Alton Ellis’ daughter Lovella Ellis, demonstrate that the genre has preserved its vibrancy and its audiences around the world.

It has some interesting lessons for those keen to break into the music industry from marketing and mix tapes via house parties and PAs, to the perils of contracts as singer Kofi (Carol Simms) of trio Brown Sugar recounts saying she made little money from their hit single I’m in Love with a Dreadlocks, which was number one in the reggae charts while the group were still in school.

The film charts the demand for Lovers Rock as it went from niche to mass market with Janet Kay appearing on Top of the Pops when Silly Games went national in 1979 after spending six months on the reggae scene, and the further triumphs for British reggae in the shape of Maxi Priest’s US success. The film also makes the link between the melodious largely female dominated scene and today’s grime movement. The triumphant film is precious; marking a great British legacy, which is often forgotten by the mainstream industry despite the genre going global (Japan and Latin America) and having shaped the UK’s appetite for future fusions of black music.

The Story of Lovers Rock is out now priced £15.99. Running time: 96 minutes including trailer and scene selection.

http://www.loversrockthefilm.com/index.php

Aswad play the Islington Assembly on 31 March.

Janet Kay and Carroll Thompson play the Islington Assembly on 11 May.

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The UK Corner DVD review: Jumping The Broom

Jumping The Broom captures a recurring debate that has been splashed across the headlines of numerous media outlets, the African American’s quest for love. But this film goes beyond niche appeal. It translates a single ladies quest into a universal pursuit. Sabrina Watson (Paula Patton) has brought her milkshake to her last yard and resigns to reserve her cookies for a cutter worthy enough. The missing instrument in her life is soon replaced when she runs into Jason Taylor (Laz Alonso) a Goldman Sachs Banker from Brooklyn.

Within six months the lovebirds are engaged and destined for a new life in China but their nuptials are as delicate as the name of their potential new home suggests. Threats to their future exist in the form of their polar opposite families. The Watsons are uptown; apparently wealthy and middle class; the Taylors are downtown; working class and sassy. Not even Sabrina’s mother Claudine (Angela Basset) and her hilarious wedding planner Amy (Julie Bowen) can protect the big day from calamity.

Director Salim Akil perfectly frames the tranquil and picturesque surroundings of Martha’s Vineyard, which are escapist but for the fighting in laws who cause ripples in the waters that threaten not to be stilled. Loretta Devine intimidates as Jason’s angry, dependent and over bearing mother Pam. Though she tickles, delivering some of the best lines. Her best friend Shonda (Tasha Smith) is the perfect sidekick while uncle Willie Earle (Mike Epps) and cousin Malcolm (DeRay Davis) join them on the ride to the island for the weekend wedding.

The geographical divisions are not the only ones explored in the film. The Watsons are divided by recurring secrets and lies in the form of Greg Watson’s (Brian Stokes Mitchell) secret phone calls and a secretive aunt Geneva, the multi-talented (Valarie Pettiford). While the numbers may be even, the wedding party is at odds to mesh. Blythe (Megan Good) is reluctant to succumb to her attraction to Chef McKenna (Gary Dourdan), and Malcolm’s game just does not add up to success with any lady. Sabrina’s cousin Sebastian (Romeo Miller), a 20-year-old senior at Yale, fares little better in his attempt to make a cougar out of Shonda.

Paula Patton and Laz Alonso with Bishop T.D. Jakes in the background

It is doubtful that love will conquer all when the Watsons and the Taylors clash over standards of etiquette and decorum, and argue about everything from the menu to the dancing. But the real sticking point centres on the tradition of Jumping The Broom. As the modern couple considers sweeping the symbolic custom under the carpet, the pre-wedding family dinner descends into a multi lingual fracas. But after dinner revelations cause the real upset.

Writers Elizabeth Hunter and Arlene Gibbs deliver a smart, fresh and funny story with balance and subtle social commentary about culture, class, identity and values. They successfully juxtapose convention and innovation. Producers Bishop T.D. Jakes (who makes a cameo along with El Debarge) and Tracey E Edmonds produce a touching narrative with religious undertones, but the film is inclusive rather than exclusive. The soundtrack, which features Patton’s husband Robin Thicke, provides the perfect accompaniment to this romantic comedy, which is released in the UK just in time for Valentines Day. Viewers will fall for this movie again and again.

Jumping the Broom, rated 12, is out now on Sony Pictures Home Entertainment priced £19.99. Bonus material include commentary with Director Salim Akil, Paula Patton and Laz Alonso, as well as two featurettes: “You’re invited: Behind the scenes” and “Honouring the tradition of Jumping the Broom.”

For more information visit: http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/jumpingthebroom/

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Skeen! must be seen at Oval House Theatre

SKEEN!

Wednesday 18 – Saturday 21 January 7:45pm Tickets £8/5

Every youth in this play talks like they just bathed in weed fresh from yardie world, every girl gets mashed more times than sweet potato, is this the truth? This is what living in London today’s all about? SKEEN! is a play that challenges how young people are represented, and how, in a wider context, we choose to represent ourselves.

In his debut play, Writer Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu challenges how young people are represented and how we represent ourselves. Directed by Roy Alexander Weise

SKEEN! is part of the 33% London season, the multidisciplinary arts festival for Young Artists, by Young Artists, at Oval House Theatre. 33% London will also feature live acoustic music, a spoken word night held by The Roundhouse’s poetry collectives Rubix & Elephant, masterclasses from Frantic Assembly and film-maker Kwame Lestrade, and a specially commissioned exhibition of young artists.

Venue Information

Ticket Prices:

SKEEN! : £8 full price, £5 all concessions.

Box office: 020 7582 7680 (open Mon-Sat, 3pm- 8pm). Online sales: www.ovalhouse.com (no fee)

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The UK Corner event preview: RnB superstars 2 SWV, Ginuwine, Dru Hill and Silk in Super Gig

Sisters With Voices AKA SWV, are back with a new single Co-sign taken from their upcoming album I Missed Us set to be released on April 10 via eOne Music and Mass Appeal Entertainment. The RnB trio from New York who formed in 1990 as a gospel group are one of the most successful RnB groups of that era. They had a string of hits such as Weak, Right Here/Human Nature, I’m So Into You, and You’re the One. Though the group disbanded in 1998 to pursue solo projects, they  reunited in 2005. Their most recent UK performance was alongside Faith Evans in December 2010 at indigo2.

The RnB superstars will be joined by Ginuwine who has multi-platinum and platinum-selling albums and singles, and became one of RnB’s top artists in the same period.  He formed a supergroup with H-Town and Playa and his sexy performances have always been a hit with his female fans. His most recent album was 2011’s Elgin. His most recent UK performance was alongside J Holiday at indigo2 last June.

Dru Hill and Silk will also join the line up at HMV Apollo London on Sunday 12 February. Dru Hill recorded seven top 40 hits in the UK, and is best known for the hits In My Bed, Never Make a Promise, and How Deep Is Your Love. Their most recent album was 2010’s InDrupendence Day which they promoted in the UK that same year

Silk are best known for their hit singles Happy Days and Freak Me from their debut album Lose Control.  The album reached double platinum. They made a popular come back in the UK at the indigo last February alongside Kut Klose.

In a pre-valentines day special presented by S & C MEDIA LTD, this eclectic old school line up will be delivering musical gifts for RnB lovers. With comedy from Choice FM DJ Kojo and Slim, this is an event not to be missed.

14s and under to be accompanied by an adult. Tickets range from £28.50 to £50.00. Show starts from 7pm and ends at 11pm.

For more information visit: http://venues.meanfiddler.com/apollo/full-listings/featured/5908

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The UK Corner Book review: I didn’t ask to be born (but I’m glad I was) By Bill Cosby

From its title, you may assume that New York Times Bestselling Author Bill Cosby’s latest book is another social commentary. However, surprisingly, it is more a collection of humorous tales of varied lengths about his observations of family and friends. Insightful, Cosby writes about everything from romance to religion. He introduces us to the characters in his life from a young Peanut Armhouse who he grew up with in a Philadelphia housing project, to his Godzilla-loving grandson, and his first love Bernadette.

The latter is my favourite part of the book. I laughed out loud as Cosby recalled being a fifteen-year-old boy in the tale of cologne and catastrophe that even a Miles Davis LP cannot soothe. The Missing Pages is another great story focusing on what simply must have been edited out of Genesis and the story of how God created the world. Cosby even traces Adam and Eve’s DNA to marriages in 2011. With hilarious illustrations by George Booth, the book is full of charm and charisma.

Cosby is loved as a comedian, producer, musician, activist, educator and actor. His first humor book since Cosbyology does not disappoint. Only Cosby can tell a story with so much vibrancy from emphasizing the pronunciation of names (Peee –Nut), to subtly exuding the characteristics of the bygone era from which he came where voice mails were not on the horizon!

Reflecting on technological advances, Cosby notes that he had no TV and grew up in the radio age, while enjoying trips to the movie theater to watch Westerns. With his great imagination Cosby has conquered the multimedia age and fans are lucky to experience his comedy and wisdom on multiple platforms.

Read an excerpt

Cosby deals with the title of his book as a subject, dispensing more of the fatherly advice he has become associated with since The Cosby Show from single children, to handling demands for toys and manipulative advertising. There is even a seasonal story about his grandchildren’s encounter with Santa Claus’ assistant.

This quirky book is a gift that inspires you to indulge in all the other gifts Cosby has bestowed on the world from his TV shows, to his comedy albums, to his other books. But the biggest gift was from his mother who birthed his genius.

I didn’t ask to be born but I’m glad I was by Bill Cosby is out now published by Hachette Book Group.

For more information visit:

http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/books_9781455505944.htm

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The UK Corner DVD review: Black Power Mixtape 1967 – 1975

Swedish Filmmaker Göran Hugo Olsson has produced a fascinating documentary that anyone interested in black history should see. From the outset it juxtaposes the equalities of America with the inequalities and exposes the injustice, which lived just a few, miles from justice; the distance between the two was measured by race.

The archival 16mm black and white and colour footage shot by Swedish filmmakers, was unearthed from a basement of a TV station after 30 years. The film primarily focuses on Howard University Alumni Stokely Carmichael, who later changed his name to Kwame Ture, the Trinidad-American black activist. Carmichael was the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and became the ‘Honorary Prime Minister’ of the Black Panther Party. Affiliated with Black Nationalist and Pan-Africanist movements, he popularized the term ‘Black Power’.

In the film which was co-produced by the actor Danny Glover, Olsson presents the eloquent orator Camichael making rousing speeches about Dr Martin Luther King and the bus boycott to largely white audiences. Carmichael analyzes the effectiveness of Dr King’s non-violence approach at the time.

The historical evidence is put into context be a series of interviews with musicians such as Erykah Badu, actors such as Melvin Van Peebles, poets such as Abiodun Oyewole and Sonia Sanchez, and professors such as John Forté and Robin Kelley, recorded in 2010. Rapper Talib Kweli is heard assessing Carmichael’s strengths, personality and legacy as we see Carmichael traveling around Europe. Kweli also tells an interesting tale about Carmichael inspiring one of his records and being investigated by the FBI/CIA after studying him; highlighting the threat that Carmichael’s ideas are sill perceived to be.

Olsson does a great job contextualizing the American Civil Rights movement amid the broader political scene with reference to the backdrop of the Vietnam War. The film reminded me of how much I love history. It is amazing to watch Carmichael interviewing his mother and hearing about growing up in poverty due to the discrimination is father faced. There are many revealing moments with footage of Carmichael singing in his hotel room and doing regular things.

Stokely Carmichael

The DVD takes each year between 1967 – 1975 in turn. By 1968 The Roots Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson, who produced original music for the soundtrack alongside Om’Mas Keith, notes that Dr King’s assassination was no accident; as he moved towards a more militant anti-war position. Desegregation was one thing but economic power was another.

Actor Harry Belafonte provides insight into how Dr King felt in the last days of his life when he did not fear for his life, but instead for the quality of it. He aimed to fight new battles not on race but education, health and welfare. The DVD includes a clip from Dr King’s speech in Memphis the night before he was killed. It also shows Dr King in his casket. It highlights the deaths of other prominent black people in 1968 such as Civil Rights Activist Medgar Evers and Fred Hampton, as well as key moments in black history that year such as athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ 1968 Olympics Black Power salute at the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City, and incidents of policy brutality in America.

The DVD is moving in showing such palpable moments in history. A clip from Malcolm X’s 1964 Oxford Union debate is precious. Vox pops from black people on the streets of America of losing heroes such as John F Kennedy, Dr King and Robert Kennedy, and footage of poor mothers with multiple mouths to feed are just as meaningful. It is all the more moving to see such despair in the late sixties and look at where things stand today.

The film also features moments with Black Panthers, Bobby Seale and Kathleen and Eldridge Cleaver, and Huey P Newton who declares that new leaders are born and made, and highlights the important work the Black Panther party did introducing free clinics and free breakfast clubs – an initiative the American Government was to adopt. It can be disturbing to hear kids singing about guns but commentators such as Erykah Badu put into context the realities of self-defense and the extreme circumstances. The film charts the progress of the Black Panther Party as more members are arrested or killed; and the party in general moved towards socialism.

Political Activist and author Professor Angela Davis, the first woman on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, is another great commentator who contributes to the film on top of an intimate, candid and exclusive interview from her prison cell as a 26-year-old woman in 1970. With her trademark afro, wearing a red polo neck, brown skirt and red tights, Davis vividly recalls the scenes she witnessed as a youth including being stopped and searched by the police and her ties to one of the four little girls killed in the 1963 Birmingham Alabama church bombing.

The film is empowering and audiences can only thank the team, past and present, for being brave and passionate enough to tell this story, especially considering that in 1970, America’s TV Guide lambasted Swedish and Dutch TV for being anti-American in presenting an alternate interpretation of history.

The film highlights the advancement of the early seventies where black was beautiful and knowledge was power. It features an interview with Lewis H Michaux in 1973 at his iconic Harlem African National Memorial Bookstore, where Malcolm X spoke, and a year before it closed down.

By 1974 when Nixon resigned, Watergate was overshadowed in black communities by heroin, which the Government flooded the neighborhoods with. Even Vietnam Veterans returned with drug problems. Angela Davis aligns the influx of narcotics with the decline of military and revolutionary impulses. A few years after man had conquered the moon they struggled to combat earthly highs. A young female drug addict tells a particularly harrowing tale of abuse and prostitution; one can only hope she has beaten her demons.

As inner cities became gentrified, new leaders emerged such as the nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan who is also featured in the film. The story comes full circle analyzing the legacy of the black power movement; its rationale, radicalism and rhetoric, which has been referenced for other human rights movements. Erykah Badu notes the importance of black people documenting their history, though it is a Swedish team behind the production. It is important for people to document their history but when resources such as this are so valuable it matters less who produced it, and more who can benefit from it.

Black Power Mixtape 1967 – 1975 is out now from Soda Pictures priced £9.99.

The satirical special documentary feature, This Film Is Meant To Be About Stokely Carmichael about Carmichael’s British cousin and National Film and Television School alumni Isis Thompson’s struggles with identity, featuring Dami Akinnusi and Darcus Howe, will divide opinion.

The film premiered in UK cinemas during Black History month in October. It has already toured cities across America.

For more information visit: http://blackpowermixtape.com/

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The UK Corner Book review: My Story so far by Tinie Tempah

At 23, Patrick Chukwuemeka Okogwu Jr, AKA Tinie Tempah, has admitted that it is a bit early for an autobiography, but as the title suggests, this book is more of an insight into the journey that has led him to become one of the UK’s most successful recording artists. His youth means that the book is largely comprised of photographs representing the key moments of the last two years.

For fans, the book traces Tempah’s roots in South London and life with his Nigerian family with childhood photos to make the tales of Jollof rice and extended family more vivid. He reveals that he was creative from an early age creating animated characters. As the oldest child he was also responsible, and this marriage of maturity and creativity are key to his career successes.

His passion for music was one of the main reasons he avoided the perils of the streets which some of his school friends fell victim to that, and his vigilant parents. It was his mother who encouraged him to work with his cousin Dumi who was to be come his manager.

Dumi saw the potential in his young cousin who diligently studied the emerging grime scene and began to make mix tapes and do PAs and appear on pirate radio stations alongside the MCs he idolized. Tempah worked hard while studying at school and college, and worked to pay for music videos. With confessionals about early insecurities and doubts, the book provides great inspiration for those keen to break into the music industry and any one with a dream.

Tinie Tempah

Tempah’s main message is to seize the day and follow those dreams. He explicitly analyzes the dreams, which have been realized for him including his number one singles such as Pass Out and Written in the Stars (the official theme song for Wrestlemania 27), and his double platinum-selling debut album Disc-Overy, his music videos, life on tour including life backstage and his non-controversial rider and experiences in America (he appeared on Jay Leno and David Letterman and played Coachella), and his relationships with the artists, producers and famous faces he has met and worked with such as Prince William, Labrinth, Snoop Dogg, Pharrell Williams, Adele, Kylie, Diddy, Wiz Khalifa, Usher and Lindsay Lohan who messages him on Twitter! Famous names such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Jay-Z and Jessie J are also quoted.

Having joined the ranks of those big name, MOBO and Brit award winning Tempah is not afraid to show his cards as he talks about the way fame has affected him and those around him. Tempah’s voice is definitely recognizable in the book. Known for his insightful lyrics and clever word play, readers can be confident that his intellect comes across.

The self-assured comfortable in his own skin persona is what has made Tempah so well received. His character comes across in the book and you get to know him, from his crushes and musical tastes, to his hobbies and passion for fashion. The story so far is only the beginning and if it is anything to go by, the next chapters can only get bigger and better.

My story so far by Tinie Tempah is out now, published by Ebury Publishing, priced £14.99. For more visit: http://www.eburypublishing.co.uk/viewbook.asp?isbn=0091945232

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The UK Corner Book review: Modelland by Tyra Banks

From the outset, Modelland overpowers your senses. A form of literature candy, it gives a sugar rush with its metaphors and flamboyant world. Initially trying to acclimatize to the characters such as the De La Crèmes, the places such as Peppertown, Metopia, and the unrelenting alliteration, is almost too much. Yet it is worth the effort to fully immerse oneself into this fashionable fictional world.

In Modelland, the exclusive, mysterious place on top of the mountain, some recognizable facts are worn. Banks skillfully takes the reader through a fantastical journey reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In this book Smizes not chocolate bars are key to life changing adventure.

15-year-old whipped cream loving Tookie De La Crème is the female Charlie; though she comes from a less loving family. A lonely Forgetta-Girl, she longs to become memorable. But not even her untamed hair, mismatched eyes, large forehead and gawky body can make her stand out from the crowd. Surprisingly on the Day of Discovery or T-DOD, she, not her perfect sister Myraccle, is chosen to become a Bella and a potential Intoxibella (supermodel).

The plot echoes a series of America’s Next Top Model, the show former supermodel and Talk Show host Banks created, which is now shown in 170 countries. The worldliness of Banks’ personal experience is also evident in the book with a plurality of cultures featured.

In this luminescent world of Thigh High Boot Camp, Catwalk Corridor, CaraCaraCara, The OohAh! Spa; Flashback Females and Manattack; where Teachers are Gurus, Servants are Mannecants, Nurses are Purses on skates, and time is told by shades of colour, there is much to learn and experience. This includes first love for Tookie who encounters the charming Bravo.

But it is not all fun in the Dorms and M Building; there is the threat of Ci-L and the Belladonna, and the danger of the Diabolical Divide and diabolically bitchy Bellas such as Zarpessa. Not once will Tookie and her new found friends bid to escape ironically while her mother and sister try to break into Modelland via the Pilgrim Passage.

But the challenges Tookie faces are worth it; they make her into a Rememba-girl rather than breaking her. Banks uses Tookie as an exemplar of teen angst and no doubt builds on her experience running the TZONE Foundation to highlight teen insecurity, self-harming, and eating disorders.

Tyra Banks

Though aimed at teenagers, the book has wide appeal with its insight into the world of fashion, and keen observations on the world’s obsession with fashion and limited conceptions of beauty, a cause that Banks has dedicated herself to redefining. Indeed, fans will see a lot of Banks’ personality in the book as well as fashion iconography in the form ‘Evanjalinda’ and ‘Bevjo’.

Havard Business School graduate Banks has crafted a greatly detailed story with believable characters and a far from predictable plot. Modelland would make a great film and with Bankable productions, Banks’ production company, it may be on the cards. In the meantime, the sequel in this trilogy is one to watch out for.

Modelland by Tyra Banks and published by Delacorte press, is out now.

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The UK Corner CD review: My Life II The Journey Continues (Act 1) by Mary J Blige

My Life is a classic album. Released in 1994, fans remember it as an iconic chapter in R&B/hip hop soul history. This follow up some 17 years later, is much anticipated and does not disappoint. From the outset Blige and former mentor Diddy (whom she also pays homage to in a funky remix of his band Diddy Dirty Money’s track Someone to Love Me, on Someone To Love Me (Naked) feat. Diddy and Lil Wayne), allude to the legacy of the record speaking of the pain to be encountered on life’s marathon. Bilge completes this race in just over an hour, and it is no endurance test for the listener to navigate; instead it is the perfect pain killer for old fans and new who seek authenticity and integrity in their music. Blige has grown from the self-confessed hurt young lady she was when the prequel came out; the sequel witnesses the same vulnerabilities that make her music so relatable.

On her tenth studio album, multi Grammy winning Blige remains the distinct voice for voiceless women and sings about relationship angst and antics. As duets go, one of the most talked about songs of the album is the ballad Love a Woman feat. Beyonce. Blige has often created memorable duets with divas but she is equally renown for her duets with rap cons such as the late Notorious B.I.G. Feel Inside feat. Nas excites with intensity and invades your body to rid it of any inertia. There are several rap co-stars on the album including Busta Rhymes on Next Level, Drake on the sombre Mr Wrong, Rick Ross on Why, and Brook Lynn – Blige’s alter ego, on the edgy Midnight Drive. Using a refrain of Blige’s classic What You Gonna Do Without My Love, this track exposes another tone to her range.

Mary J Blige

The latest album is a departure from the experimental route her last album, which featured a cover of the rock classic Stair Way to Heaven, represented. This time the cover is a little more obvious in the shape of her childhood idol, with whom she toured in 2004, Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody, which Blige delivers a worthy rendition of, with a fresh take by Rodney Jerkins on production. The prequel My life saw Blige cover Aretha Franklin’s You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.

You can always rely on Blige to fulfil her role as part of you healthy musical diet. With help from producers including Danja, Stargate, Swizz Beatz and The Underdogs, she provides the staple nutrients needed for balance. The throwbacks to the old school (25/8 – the lead single), the mid tempo numbers (Don’t Mind), tropical inspired rhythms (No Condition), heartfelt lyrics (Empty Prayers), inspiring testimony (The Living Proof – the lead song from the film The Help), up tempo floor fillers (This Love Is For You and One Life). With its retro feel yet progressive direction, use of live instrumentation and soul samples (You Want This), the album embodies Blige’s growth and her journey. Her fans can trust that this bridge to next year’s My Life: Act 2 is a sturdy foundation.

For more information please visit http://www.maryjblige.com/splash/.

My Life II The Journey Continues (Act 1) by Mary J Blige is out now on Matriarch/Geffen.

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The UK Corner: Getting to know Tracee Ellis Ross

On Tuesday 8 November Soul Marketing and BET presented an intimate evening with actress and producer Tracee Ellis Ross at the Mayfair Hotel in London. The Getting to Know… Event was the third in its kind designed to bring diverse communities together to learn, network and be entertained. The queues were thronging outside the hotel and passersby curiously asked what was going on. Diana Ross’ daughter was in London for three days to promote her family based-sitcom Reed Between the Lines, which premieres on BET UK on Tuesday 15 November via channel Sky 191 and Freesat Channel 140.

During champagne and nibbles entertainment and sports figures such as MOBO Awards founder Kanya King, singer Kim Mazelle, Olympic athlete Dalton Grant, journalists Jacqui Joseph and Sherry Dixon, and actresses Judith Jacobs and Nakeba Buchanan, mingled with competition winners and other guests. Before Ellis Ross took questions, Soul Marketing founder Glen Yearwood introduced the evening including performances from comedian Felix Dexter and singer Renny Bird, and brief speeches from Michael Armstrong, Senior Vice President and General Manager, at BET and Ava Hall, Vice President, International Programming and Production.

Finally, it was time for Ms Ellis Ross to grace the stage in a black and white dress. Her size 7 ½ feet wore YSL red pumps from the promo shoot (the fashion enthusiast gushed about having them in brown and black too!) and matching Ruby Woo MAC red lipstick. Interviewed by Journalist Brenda Emmanus, Ellis Ross talked about her recent presenting/hosting jobs at the MTV European Music Awards and the Black Girl Rocks! Not one to do it with the lights off, Ellis Ross requested illumination as she shed light on her story.

The second of five children, Ross followed her mother singer/actress Diana Ross in to the entertainment business. Though at times she admits to resenting sharing her mother with the world, she followed a legacy, which she described as a blessing and an opportunity, with an international education in America and Switzerland. Ellis Ross became a model before going into theatre and TV. In 2000, a DVD she made as a fun gift for friends got into the hands of MTV executives and led to a regular appearance in the MTV series The Lyricist Lounge, a hip-hop variety series mixing music, dramatic sketches, and comedic skits. This evoked her hit catchphrase “Where all my diggas at?” Fondly recalled by fan Bode (pronounced Bo-day as the entire audience learned following Ellis Ross’ accidental mispronunciations (Body?), which resulted in mass chants…).

More assuredly, of course Ellis Ross spoke about her most acclaimed role as, in her own words, ‘retarded’ unlucky in love Lawyer Joan Clayton in Girlfriends. She didn’t dish any dirt on why Toni (Jill Marie Jones) left but, explained that the episode, which featured Joan vowing to curse less, was art-imitating life; Ellis Ross expressed a need to see more characters on screen representative of her, who speak in a way not often reflected on screen. Principled, she stated that she would not take a role for money if it clashed with her values. She also explained that with the average career of an actress spanning ten years, when the show ended abruptly in 2008 due to a lack of funding and the writers’ strike, she wondered if it was the end of her career. She won two NAACP Image Award for this role, she explained that though the show never won an Emmy, nor was the cast invited to be guests on Jay Leno, knowing that fans in the UK and Africa love all 176 episodes of the show compensates.

After Girlfriends, roles in Private Practice and CSI followed and Barack Obama’s office called on Ellis Ross to campaign. This period also saw her develop her public speaking in self-esteem workshops with teenage girls where she emphasized the need for self-love including of diverse hair – a subject she explores in her new show. Having had initial concerns about the images BET portrayed, the opportunity to talk with Loretha Jones, President of Programming at BET, enabled Ellis Ross to see scope for her vision to produce progressive and balanced programmes with authentic voices, where women of colour take responsibility for their roles, such as Reed Between the Lines in which as lead actress and number one on the call sheet, Ellis Ross plays Therapist Dr Carla Reed opposite Malcolm Jamal Warner as her husband Dr Alex Reed.

In their 13 hour work-days Ellis Ross, who would not be drawn on whether or not she was in a relationship, disclosed that she has built up a chemistry with Warner, best known as Theo Huxtable from The Cosby Show, whose biceps she repeatedly told us, she couldn’t fit her hand around, and whom she texts to go over the script. Her other co-stars include Anna Maria Horsford and Melissa De Sousa, with guest appearances from Robin Givens, Romeo Miller and Lauren London.

Ross took questions from the audience, some more controversial than others. She admitted that though she had spent some time in London before and had visited her step sister the day before, she did not know much about the Afro Caribbean communities in the UK. If however, she were traveling to a desert Island, she knows exactly what she would bring: her beloved dog Ladybug, her family and their loved ones. She encouraged industry insiders and viewers to be proactive in creating the shows they wanted to see after comments about the negative representation on the recent TV British drama Top Boy. Ellis Ross, who admitted she drew on her own experience of therapy when twice playing a Therapist, encouraged debate when the audience was stirred by a producer’s question about mental health issues in the black community. Ironically, the stir caused signaled the stigma in question.

On a lighter note she complimented a few ladies on their London style though the fashionistas were reluctant to publicly declare where they picked up their bargains! One audience member asked about Ellis Ross’ interest in Remembrance week following her appearance on BBC Breakfast that morning in a vintage YSL poppy dress. Ellis Ross explained that it was kismet to debut that dress at this time and revealed that she has no stylist but has assistants because she loves to shop and takes Polaroids to whittle down clothes; her happy place is her wardrobe!

Ellis Ross favours the styles of the fifties and eighties; her style icon may be Katherine Hepburn but Carmen Miranda and Lena Horne are the icons she’d most like to play, though it’s too late for her to nab the latter role. The audience loved Ellis Ross just being her lively and outgoing self. Her positive energy oozes out of her 5’7 and a half frame. Next year’s Getting to Know…event will feature soul legend Chaka Khan; it is fitting that an artist of strong caliber was her predecessor under the microscope.

L TO R: Anna maria Horsford, Melissa De Sousa, Tracee Ellis Ross, Malcolm Jamal Warner, Nadji Jeter, Zoe' Hendirx, Zoe borde

Copyright © 2011 The UK Corner. All Rights Reserved.

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RIP Heavy D May 24 1967 – November 8 2011

Heavy D

posted by The UK Corner in Music and have Comments Off on RIP Heavy D May 24 1967 – November 8 2011

2011 MTV EMAs

At 9pm CET * Sunday  November will see the 18th annual MTV EMAs held in Belfast, Ireland. Hosted by singer and actress Selena Gomez, in addition to the distribution of gongs, MTV will launch MTV Voices, its new international pro-social platform. This year the honour will go to Gomez’s boyfriend Justin Bieber and the Northern Ireland Youth Forum.

MTV Voices is s unique highlights socially positive and inspirational content produced by global correspondents, international and local music artists and MTV’ audience.

As the first artist to ever receive the MTV Voices Award, Bieber will be recognised for his ambitious launch of the Believe Charity Drive that aims to rally his fans to help raise millions of dollars for 20 charities around the world. In addition to his work with the Believe Charity Drive, Bieber has been extremely involved with the Make A Wish Foundation and Pencils of Promises, which helps build schools for children without access to education.

EMA nominee Bruno Mars

Justin Beiber is set to perform at the event alongside the likes of Jason Derulo, Bruno Mars (up for four awards), Jessie J, LMFAO and David Guetta. Viewers can vote for their favorite EMA artists by visiting www.mtvema.com. Adele and Justin Bieber are each up for three awards. Other EMA nominees include Snoop Dogg,  LMFAO, Jessie J, Beyoncé, Eminem, Kanye West, and Wiz Khalifa. Stars present will recieve goodies including an Xbox 360 console with Kinect sensor and games, M.A.C make-up boxes, Remington hair and personal care appliances, Nando’s PERi PERi gift basket, kangol headwear and Spongebob Squarepants t-shirts!

For all MTV EMA news and announcements, check out EMA on Facebook or follow them @ EMA Twitter .

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The UK Corner DVD review: Meet the Adebanjos

The billboard posters around London announced the arrival of The Adebanjos online. The image does its job in enticing people to meet the clan. On Sunday 26 June, thousands of viewers were expected to head to www.MeetTheAdebanjos.com, to officially meet the fictional British Nigerian family. The “leaked” trailer commanded over 20,000 youtube views and thousands of positive comments.

Viewers of the sitcom will not be disappointed with their new acquaintance. This family from Peckham, South London is charming and infectious. From the first episode of the two DVD box set, we meet recognisable characters: the Traditional father Bayo 45, (the seasoned Wale Ojo), his religious wife Gladys 40, (Yetunde Oduwole), his daughter Sade 17, (Andrea Aboagye), his son Tobi 15, (Daniel Anthony), and aunty Funke 48, (the naturally funny Moji Bamtefa).

An unforgettable love seeking widow, Aunty Funke’s eye shadow alone clashes with the brightly coloured décor of the Adebanjo household. But it is her confident personality, which really clashes with patriarch Bayo. Understandably, Bayo resents his lodger – he has his hands full with his blood relatives. Fun loving Sade, an energetic student of fashion who moans that life is unfair, her cheeky younger brother Tobi who plays the ladies as much as his computer games, and Gladys, Bayo’s ‘sweet potato’ who is weary of his hapless calamities. The line up is completed with sleazy Pentecostal ‘Pastor’ Michael, AKA comedian Simply Andy, Cousin Femi (Tolu Charles Ogunmefun) fresh from Nigeria known as ‘Don’t Jealous Me’, reggae loving tutor Greg (comedian Lateef Lovejoy), and a cameo by East London singer Dele. Season one explores the Adebanjo struggles as a blue-collar family. What they lack in material wealth they make up for in family bonds. The love spreads to needy neighbour Kevin (Jordan Coulson), Tobi’s friend who has a crush on Sade.

West meets West Africa. Grime competes with hi-life; pepper soup competes with beans on toast and cultural references spice up the script. African art, African print curtains, African music and African headdress, add a touch of authenticity to the set.

This family bring a fresh guise to comedy’s wardrobe. MTA productions and Fresh Media Productions challenge stereotypes of Nigerian culture. Though the storylines are somewhat predictable and familiar with scams, forgotten anniversaries, and downtrodden spouses. However, the melodramatic show is well written and cast. It is understandable that the BBC has shown interest in broadcasting this engaging and entertaining show. In some respects it resembles a black version of the hit sitcom My Family. Well produced aside from a few rough edits, the show was filmed in a live studio set in Clapham, South London. It is refreshing from the graphics to the subtle but positive messages about beauty, education, health and family values.

Show producer Debra Odutoyo cites The Cosby Show and My Wife and Kids as inspiration saying there was a need to fill the void of a British African experience. However, Meet The Adebanjos reminded me of the late Ghanaian actor Gyearbuor Asante’s role of the Nigerian Matthew in the nineties British sitcom Desmonds (also set in Peckham). With Meet The Adebanjos we don’t get a single character experience; we learn about the collective story of Nigerian culture across genders and ages. In a multitude of voices and Pidgin English, the West African dialect is captured. “You don’t know me”, “Yes I can”, “My friend, get me food sharp sharp,” “You’re welcome”; the dialogue brings to life the Nigerian story of immigration across the globe.

The producers’ journey to bring the show to fruition is commendable. Germinating from 26-year-old creator and producer Debra Odutuyo’s father’s chance meeting on a plane from Nigeria to London in the seventies, Meet the Adebanjos was to reflect Odutuyo’s life in South London. After spending three years developing the concept and pitching it to major TV Networks, in 2009 she resorted to selling her car and moving out of her flat to raise the money to produce the series herself.

It would only fund the pilot but her determination and vision impressed her childhood friend – the son of her Dad’s long-time friend, former trader Andrew Osayemi also 26, who decided to establish MTA Productions, to realise her vision. Soon they were able to raise the investment needed to produce a full season independently. The new model to fund such innovation is the DVD box set featuring eight episodes.

Odutuyo says, “The response for the show has been amazing. This just goes to show what can be achieved if you dare to be different and think outside the box…My goal is to be the Tyler Perry of the UK! This revolution will be televised. Or at least, it will be at www.MeetTheAdebanjos.com.” Support the cause to ensure that now you have met the Adebanjos, you don’t lose touch. If you haven’t yet seen the show, heed the signature cockerel’s call and wake up!

Meet the Adebanjos, the special edition DVD Box set with cast interviews and a look behind the scenes is priced £19.99 and is available at http://shop.meettheadebanjos.com/. Run Time: 230 minutes.

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The UK Corner book review: The kid by Sapphire

There is no getting around it; The Kid is a disturbing read. Those familiar with Author Sapphire’s first novel Push published in 1996, filmed as the 2009 Oscar winning Precious, will be familiar with her talent for penning dark characters in still darker scenarios. From the outset, the lights are dim in this book. Nine-year-old Abdul Jones’ only reason for sunglasses is for a funeral.

The death of his childhood is swift and violent. Few adults mourn its passing. Few adults notice the symptomatic motifs of his terminal illness: abusive environments, sexual predators, anger, violence, and systematic failures. Few adults exist to medicate his need for love, nurture and belonging, once his mother’s friend Rita and foster carer Miss Lillie disappear. So the nails are knocked into the coffin, which will carry Abdul’s innocence with sledgehammers of self-harm, prostitution and rape. Even the police fail to rescue the vulnerable child from the hypocritical Brothers at St Ailanthus Boys’ Catholic orphanage. So, forced into adulthood, Abdul buries his head in fantasies about Crazy Horse and other Native Americans. Even death becomes fantastical, “My mother died in a car accident, my father died in the war.”

Death haunts Abdul and ghosts from his past scare him to his core. From his maternal great grandmother, who he calls Slavery Days, he has inherited tragedy. The genetic disorder of pain has been passed on from Mississippi to New York; generation-to-generation. Moments of light lift the heavy mood in the book. The family history of suffering and an uncouth nature is juxtaposed with high art and culture when Slavery Days recalls her time spent in Harlem cotton clubs listening to Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Billie Holiday. But, not even the soothing sounds of jazz can dampen the harshness of incest that is the family story. “You de seed”, Slavery Days insists.

What have been planted in this desolate graveyard are weeds. But Abdul seeks to run away and grow even in his wayward manner. Bravely he still attempts to navigate life despite the constant and sudden upheaval without explanation. A chance encounter with African dance threatens to save his life. Before long, Abdul’s body, which aches, becomes stretched by Ballet. Plié and relevés become his paramedics. But by age 14, his French dance teacher Roman seeks to derail the ambulance.

There are glimmers of hope for this bright child with knowledge of Frida Kahlo and Picasso, a passion for black history, earth science, and his precious Kaleidoscope. His ordinary dream of a home, college, professional dance career, and family taunts and teases him, though we will for his relationship with his girlfriend My Lai and residency in the downtown artist loft to work out. But, no matter what way we look at it, Abdul’s dreams are an illusion. There is no happy ending; the cold streets of New York pull no punches.

Sapphire, who has a background in social services, was hit by assumptions that the book was autobiographical but she should not be offended; it is testimony to the story’s authenticity. This sad story is too real for the one million and still counting orphaned by HIV-AIDS to who the book is dedicated. The book eulogises the voices of the many affected by this epidemic, by abuse and the failings of child welfare systems.

In this master class on writing, skillfully, Sapphire puts the devil in the detail with quotes from singer Sade to Author Doestoevsky. Four books house chapters marking the deteriorating state of Abdul’s health from nine, to falling, to ascension, to dirty 4 dirty. Soiled by life and with few possessions, Abdul has forgotten his identity. Scars, both physical and psychological, overpower his few precious memories.

Another perfect candidate for a film, it is hard to forget the graphic images of abuse, which unapologetically pop up to suddenly attack both Abdul and the reader amid the most innocuous circumstances. No parents; no parental warnings. As Abdul seeks an understanding he never quite gets, the reader too is left without a perfectly resolved journey. But as we remember the real Abduls of the world, we must pray they have a better life. They must be confined to fiction expired in the real word: ashes to ashes dust to dust.

The kid by Sapphire, published by Penguin, is out now priced £12.99. For more information visit: http://www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780241145296,00.html

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Lol: Kojo’s Live N Kicking DVD on the way

One of the UK’s finest comedians Kojo, will be ringing in the New Year with laughter.  This follows his The Fresh Prince Of Hackney performance which was broadcast on MTV Base.   After five years conquering America, including appearing on the NBC show Last Comic Standing In America, the witty Kojo returns to the Hackney Empire (a venue he sold out in 2006 and 2007),  on January 21 and 22 to tape his premiere DVD Live N Kicking, which will be released by Revolver Entertainment at the end of 2012.

Best known for Kojo’s Comedy Fun House, his weekly comedy club, Kojo 31, branched out into other aspects of entertainment including presenting on the Choice FM Breakfast show and screenwriting. His latest venture is film with a debut role in Noel Clarke’s The Knot.

Kojo has written a show which will focus on a range of topics including the capital’s dating scene, being raised in foster care, the likelihood of a black prime minister and the London riots.

Kojo says:  “I’m one of many urban voices that need to be heard as the things politicians ignore are the things we’ve had to make jokes out of to stop us going crazy!” You’d be mad to miss the show.

For more information about Kojo, visit: www.officialkojo.com

Live N Kicking

20-21 January 2012

Hackney Empire, 291 Mare Street, London E8 1EJ

Tickets £15.50-£25 Hackney Empire Box Office 020 8985 2424 http://www.hackneyempire.co.uk/?lid=238

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The UK Corner theatre review: Some like it hip-hop @ Peacock Theatre

Familiar with Zoonation productions, the presence of narrator (Tachia Newall) at the start of Some like it Hip-Hop suggested that a fairytale might be ahead. But the tale spun was dark and not all folklore. In Governor Okeke’s world the sun has been blotted out, books have been banned and women have been sidelined. In their ivory towers men clock in to the room to work. When Jo-Jo Jameson (Lizzie Gough) and Kerri Kimbalaya (the brilliant Teneisha Bonner) sneak into the recreation room in the men’s quarters, the stakes are high as they attempt to hide in the testosterone-fuelled environment. In the speakeasy style den the cards are on the table, but the fun and games are only just beginning for the ladies, as they must launch into a farcical cat and mouse escapade.

Teneisha Bonner as Kerri Kimbalaya

Unhappy to be treated like vermin, the ladies take an as you like it approach donning suits and moustaches so they can join the boys brigade. Shakespeare would be proud of their gender reversal, if only for the light it shines on the male species. But not all the male characters are bad. The protagonist is the nerdy Simeon Sun (Tommy Franzén). DJ Walde underscores Sun’s goofy character and incompetence beautifully as the guitar-playing reject who performs Invisible Me. Walde, who has a voice reminiscent of Robin Thicke, does an excellent job as the shows Composer and Musical Director. He meshes a soundtrack that fuses hip-hop, R&B, jazz and electro. The musical smorgasbord is executed by several other stellar voices belonging to the likes of Elliote Williams-N’Dure and Sheree Dubois whose Aretha Franklin references aptly capture the respect their vocals command.

In this production, the world-class choreography stands out as much as the music and dance becomes a character. The audience is treated to popular dance crazes past and present such as break dancing, crumping, the bogle, the butterfly and the dutty wine. Beyond the rehearsals the dancers are put through their paces and pass every test and assessment with flying colours. While Jameson and Kimbalya fare less favourably with their deception, the activities in the men’s sleep quarters prove both amusing and entertaining not least in Kimbalaya’s post hazing celebrations.

Three of the 19 strong cast

As alliances blossom and illegal substances are consumed, the plot moves on when we meet the Governor’s daughter Oprah (Natasha Gooden – whose warm Liverpudlian accent accentuates her character’s vulnerabilities) and find out what plunged him into darkness, before the rejects rebel, battle style, to unearth the light. But the real story is told with each synchronised and symmetrical line of the dancers’ movement. Each motion conveys emotion. As limbs bounce along to the lyrical script, the audience is reminded about just how exciting kinetic energy can be. From street dance to classical steps, each talented dancer moves the audience with their movement.

L to R: Tommy Franzén as Simeon Sun and Duwane Taylor as Govenor Okeke

Building on the classic film Some Like it Hot, Director, writer and choreographer Kate Prince progresses the story of love in drag by flipping the script. In reverse, these lines paint historical pictures of black music and dance. But the production is very current. Dripping in hip-hop culture it alludes to the genre’s reputation for misogyny. But what is most memorable from the show is not the stereotypes, but the constant dynamism, which leaves audiences dancing in the aisles.

Some Like It Hip-Hop is at Peacock Theatre Portugal Street, Holborn, WC2.

20 Oct – 19 Nov.

For more information visit: http://www.sadlerswells.com/show/ZooNation-Some-Like-It-Hip-Hop

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VIDEO: Wretch 32 and Choice FM Music Potential Competition winner

On 25 October, I Have A Choice competition winner Osasu Oyemwimina AKA Sasman met grime/hip-hop sensation Wretch 32 at their exclusive studio session. The Choice FM & Barclaycard Unwind sponsored competition saw North London’s Osasu 23, prove naysayers wrong after he beat hundreds of entrants to take his career to the next level.

Wretch 32 said “Supporting Music Potential has been a great experience, from sitting on the panel and giving out advice to now being able to spend some quality time with an up and coming artist is amazing.  When you are at this stage in your career, you need all the encouragement and support you can get and I hope that my involvement will inspire Osasu and others who want to have a career in music.

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The UK Corner theatre review: In My Shoes @ Soho Theatre

Sitting directly in front of a comedienne can be dangerous, but the comedy gods smiled on me as I escaped the spotlight that was to shine at the end of the evening. At the start of Angie Le Mar’s one-women show, the light is fully focussed on American diva Falushilah Falashilay (Le Mar’s creation from Funny Black Women on the Edge), who is shoe shopping at the airport lounge. Having just arrived, she is in town to promote her greatest hits.

As she stockpiles shoes as if they are going out of fashion, to the beats of Rihanna’s Please Don’t Stop The Music we meet Rebecca Star, a wannabe model on the verge of unforeseen riches at her job seekers allowance interview. Star would love to step into Falashilay’s glitzy shoes and walk through the streets of fame – anything would be better than living on misery avenue with an abusive father trying to buy his way out of guilt.

While some may question the authenticity of Star’s working class accent being married to the financial assets available for her to inherit, it is easy to be moved by the poignancy of Le Mar’s acting as she emotes vulnerability and youthful insecurity with the slightest wring of her hands and limp leg.

Middle class city executive Valerie Simpson has far more confidence, as we slip into her world to the sounds of Beyonce’s 1+1, we see why. With a trendy home and a successful career, she could be satisfied, but the red wine cannot drown out the sound of Omar’s There’s Nothing Like This from her stereo. With only solitude for company it’s no wonder that she converses with her artwork. In one of the funniest scenes, her walls don’t talk but they wear the most intriguing images that mimic the varying targets of her diatribe – her dog, her ex and her exhausted genitalia.

Angie Le Mar kept the laughs coming

The woes of single women are contrasted with woes of trainers geek and peer mentor Dupre McKenzie. The way Le Mar speedily transitions between characters is best evidenced in this character. In a believable portrayal of male ego and teenage testosterone, Le Mar strikes numerous poses as OCD sufferer McKenzie profiles in the mirror. But he is not vain; he is looking for his self. Reflecting on his poor choices, he speaks at a young offenders institute and inspires, until his best friend’s ghost (in Jamaican culture – Duppy) revisits him. As she hits the deck, Le Mar’s commitment in this scene is admirable, with her wig cap on display and her jeans falling down.

But she is soon made over in the church dressing room as Samantha Hide, a jaded actress holding onto the past. Without the necessities for an emergency situation, Hide clutches her 1980s review close to her bosom and occupies the toilets. She ransacks her bag looking in vain for what she has already lost. This character finds Le Mar reciting Shakespeare and you are reminded of her kaleidoscope of talent as an actress.

There were some heavy steps for Le Mar to take

But in addition to acting, former Social Worker Le Mar is a married mother of three (including upcoming comedian and radio DJ Travis Jay), director, presenter, producer, writer, stand-up comedienne of 25 years (she was the first Black British performer to appear at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre and had the first ever sell out show by a female black comedian in London’s West End), and radio personality. The latter no doubt inspired the exclusive interview with Charmaine Lawrence, celebrated lifestyle guru, spiritual sister and author of the book Sole to Heel, on The Brenda Emmanus show. As much as Lawrence rambles, the book, which she plugs endlessly, is appealing if only for the element of parody.

The ‘studio audience’ has one final treat as Falushilah Falashilay returns to play out the Brenda Emmanus Show. Now this is where I prayed that my leopard print pumps would not become the story. God heard me but others nearby weren’t so lucky as shoes were singled out to reveal secrets about their owners.

In this theatrical tour de force presented by her company Straight to the Audience Productions, Le Mar maintains her pace and poise as she walks and runs the miles of six different but interconnected lives. Though only a dance and musical snippet signals a change of character between sketches, from heels to trainers, each shoe fits. Her co-devisor and Director Femi Elufowoju Jnr ensures that her footwear is not worn down. Le Mar as cordwainer ensured that the script was free from cobblers.

In My Shoes premieres at The Soho Theatre from 14 October running until 5 November. Call the Box Office on 020 7478 0100. After touring the UK, In My Shoes will transfer to the international stage including New York, LA and Atlanta, in 2012-2013. Like a female Tyler Perry in her proactive nature, fans can also look out for Le Mar’s pilot sitcom The Ryan Sisters starring Michelle Gayle, Kellie Bryan, Josie D’arby, Eddie Nestor, alongside Le Mar, as well as her forthcoming Internet streaming concepts The Living Room and Angie’s Round The Table. For more information about Angie Le Mar visit her website.

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The UK Corner gig review: Keri Hilson @ indigO2 London

With support from UK artists RD, Angel, and Starboy Nathan, Keri Hilson was the American headliner. Despite having one arm in a cast, DJ Mars warmed up the crowd further before Hilson arrived on stage at 9.50pm to take the audience to another planet.

In this galaxy, we breathed in R&B, Hip-Hop and Electro music like it was oxygen. Hilson’s space suit was comprised of sunglasses, a silver Mac, leather hot pants and a leather bra top. Her two dancers Tia and Kayla mirror her style with the addition of kneepads. Protective gear was necessary as they attacked Hilson’s songs Gimme What I Want, Turning Me On and The Way You love Me with energy as their weaponry, and Drummer Bennie Rodgers as their accomplice.

Hilson passes the mic

Hilson encouraged her fans to “bounce” to the sounds of Atlanta Georgia grown beats as she eased into Lose Control. She quickly lost her Mac as she demonstrated her vocal prowess on Slow Dance.  Slow dance over, Hilson pressed fast-forward as she scouted for talent.

Hilson scouts for talent

Her search yielded laughs when ladies raised their hands in response to her declaration: “I’m looking for somebody right now.” Noticing the danger of her lack of clarity, she urged the ladies to lower their hands and insisted she was looking for a feller – a chocolate single feller!

28-year-old Hilson singled one out but had trouble identifying him. “Tardray? I’m gonna go with T!” But her find was in vain her female fans were having none of it and quickly began chanting: “No boys allowed” – the title of her sophomore album. Acknowledging the irony, Hilson replied, “I see you ladies, calm down – boys are good for one thing,” which seemed to appease the ladies.

Hilson steps with her dancers

The battle of the sexes over, and dazzling with an asymmetrical gold bob, bling and love from the almost sold out venue, Hilson continued on her intergalactic tour with snippets of One Night Stand and Number One. Worried in vain that the audience could hear the microphone feedback as she did, she asked the engineers to “kill the reverb.”

But nothing disrupted the quality of Hilson’s expressive performance. Some have argued that she echoes Aaliyah or Ciara, but on this night, Hilson shone like a star in a style that was distinctly hers. Though her link to songs such as Got Your Back may have been a tad cliché, the quality of her material, such as my favourite Bahm Bahm (Do It Once Again) / I Want You, which earned its rewind, made up for the script.

Hilson's vocals strike the right note

Surprises added to the freshness of the gig most notably when one of the many male musicians Hilson has duetted with, Chipmunk, joined her on stage for In The Air. But the party continued without him as Hilson, who has just been appointed as an ambassador for the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, slipped into Turn My Swag On before taking a break.

Generously, we were transported to Miami with the sounds of Pitbull and the throwing of beach balls before Hilson reappeared to perform ‘Til We Get It Right, I like and her favourite songs from her debut album In a Perfect World and sophomore follow-up  – Lose control/Let Me Down, Energy and Hustler.

In the spotlight Hilson’s raspy voice sizzled on Beautiful Mistake. As if we weren’t drunk on the vocal delivery, she questioned those without drinks in their hands. Far from sobering things up, Hilson continued to create addicts out of her audience selling the sounds of fun with Get Your Money Up – the Biggie Get Money mix. The sounds were now full length and the audience got to hear every last drop of Buyou.

Boys were excluded as Hilson stood centre stage

But there were two tracks that the crowd awaited. While X Factor finalists such as Misha B and Janet sat in the VIP lounge, Hilson called her own VIPs to the stage dismissing the pretenders who answered her call. It was a saccharine moment when the young girls joined her to sing and dance to Pretty Girl Rock.

Hilson declared the song was about interior beauty and self esteem. Insisting she was not male bashing, she switched pace with All The Boys. She couldn’t leave the stage aware that she was ‘forgetting’ to perform the Grammy nominated Knock You Down. It was a memorable night for both sexes and if men are as Martian as her DJ, Hilson proved that Venus rocks!

posted by The UK Corner in Music and have Comment (1)

Peace from broken pieces: How to get through what you’re going through By Iyanla Vanzant

When I first saw Iyanla Vanzant on The Oprah Winfrey Show, I was saddened to hear about her losing her daughter to cancer, her defunct TV show Iyanla, and becoming bankrupt. However, as someone who brought Acts of Faith for my mother and who went to see Vanzant in London, from what she revealed about her sense of self, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had invested time and money in a ‘self-help guru’ that did not have all the answers.

But, intrigued by her story, I just knew that this book was worth reading. I was right. The book speaks to the soul and is addictive but one can only wish that the work were fictitious. It is almost unfathomable that one person; one family should be afforded such pain.

Yet, it is the strength that Vanzant writes about in this memoir; a universal strength, which reminds us that we can all overcome. Though primarily a woman’s tale, it is underlined by a fundamental understanding of the human spirit. A spirit, which both endures and soars.

Vanzant writes a raw account of her losses and gains. Many of the issues she addresses are recognizable from death and bereavements, to divorce and abuse. What is most interesting, is her analysis of pathology and family patterns, which if left unchallenged; are unconsciously passed down from generation to generation. It is no surprise that this New York Times best-selling author can write, but that she could write a book so well after facing so much pain, is no easy feat.

In 330 pages, Vanzant, the founder and executive director of Inner Visions International and the Inner Visions Institute for Spiritual Development, summarises the most important lessons of the last decade in her life; none more powerful than the death of her daughter Gemmia, her precious jewel, on Christmas Day in 2003. Her faith is the only thing that Vanzant, a Yoruba priestess, credits for helping her to overcome her grief. The book inspires as it affirms a route to healing for the faithful.

Each of the 20 chapters are prefaced by quotes such as “Your life will only get better when you get better”, as well as Yoruba proverbs and biblical references. Each chapter is titled in a characteristically Iyanla way (Blind in one eye…can’t see out the other). The main message I receive is that people need to remember who they are and who they can be; remember all the positive things about themselves that they have forgotten.

I have remembered what first drew me to Vanzant – her wisdom. Her wisdom supports those who want to bridge the gaps in their lives. For those who are deficient in their faith and spirituality, or who question emotional freedom techniques, it is easy to dismiss this book. Certainly not everyone will accept Vanzant’s premise that we choose our families but it is less easy to dismiss the karmic laws, which Vanzant professes. It is less easy to deny the power of rejecting personal lies in favour of self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth, which she has now qualified.

Vanzant’s book chimes with the summary of Oprah Winfrey’s lecture in her show finale. Both offer reminders about the power of choice and responsibility, both are reminders to release fears and attachments to physicality; to follow our calling – to learn what we need to know better so that we can do better. Vanzant says, “Our spiritual curriculum is chosen by our souls to facilitate growth, learning, and healing.” After reading the book and re-watching Vanzant reunited with Oprah, my initial doubts made sense but were also diminished. Good advice doesn’t mean you know all the answers, it can mean that you are at least asking the right questions. Though Vanzant has left TV behind and now lives more modestly scrap-booking and making herbal soaps, she still has all the ingredients to help us all clean up our lives.

Peace from broken pieces: How to get through what you’re going through By Iyanla Vanzant is published by Hay House price £10.99

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Happy born day Amy…RIP

The Amy Winehouse Foundation was launched today on what would have been Amy’s 28th birthday. The Amy Winehouse Foundation is being set up in Amy’s memory to support charitable activities in both the UK and abroad that provide help, support or care for young people, especially those who are in need by reason of ill health, disability, financial disadvantage or addiction.

Amy Winehouse

Amy Jade Winehouse 14 September 1983 - 23 July 2011

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RIP Tupac Shakur

Tupac Shakur 16 June 1971 - 13 September 1996

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A Clockwork Orange

 

A Clockwork Orange

Ashley Hunter as Alex photography by Robert Day

On the eve of its 50th anniversary, a new adaptation of the  classic A Clockwork Orange is on at Stratford Theatre Royal. Anthony Burgess’ cult novel becomes  a musical thanks to New Yorkers Ed DuRanté (words) and Fred Carl (music), and the UK’s Dawn Reid, Associate Director of the Theatre Royal Stratford East, directing.

inmates in A Clockwork Orange

Ashley Hunter & Kirris Riviere photography by Robert Day

Focusing on the last chapter of Burgess’ novel, which was omitted from the first American editions of the novel, does not appear in Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film, and deals with redemption and hope, the musical is sure to put a new spin on an iconic story.

A Clockwork Orange runs from Monday 5 September – Saturday 1 October.

Tickets: £20 / £15 and £10 concessions (Tues – Thursday until 22 Sept); £22 / £17 concessions (Fri and Sat eves & last week of run); Evening performances are at 7.30pm, matinees are 2.30pm, there will be Saturday matinees on 24 September and 1 October.

Box office 020 8534 0310  www.stratfordeast.com
BSL interpreted                Tuesday 27 September 7.30pm
Captioned                         Friday 30 September 7.30pm
Audio-described               Saturday 1 October 2.30pm
Pay what you want Saturday 17 September 2.30pm. Available to Newham residents who have never been to see a show at Theatre Royal Stratford East before. Call 020 8534 0310 and quote Pay what you want when booking – tickets must be booked in advance and proof of residence must be shown on collection of tickets.

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The UK Corner book review: The Wealth Cure: Putting Money in its Place by Hill Harper

With news reports threatening another recession, many people around the world would do well to read this book. Though Actor/New York Times best selling author Hill Harper speaks primarily to an American audience, his messages are universal. The Wealth Cure is an antidote to the long-standing toxic culture of excess, which pervades much of the world. Harper questions the allure of ‘bling’, the constant need to upgrade and the pressure/desire to keep up with the Joneses, and explores what these things conceal.

He diagnoses spiritual impoverishment within a society with misaligned values. His suggested remedies for austerity include changing attitudes and putting money in its place. To change our definition of wealth and find balance, Harper challenges us to list the factors which make us feel wealthy bearing in mind this formula: money+wellness=wealth. It is an apt equation considering that the book was inspired by Harper’s shock diagnosis with thyroid cancer.

With our new perspective, Harper encourages us to be grateful for our bills (yes, you read right but remember we have a new perspective), and to improve our financial literacy by learning about the stock exchange, mortgages, our credit scores, taking calculated investment risks, managing our money with budgets, being practical about wills and health insurance, and saving. He pleads for us to comply with our own financial rescue plans so that we can maintain financial health and wealth, thrive, and survive, in turbulent economic times.

As we take control and become more empowered with our choices, more confident, responsible, patient and focused – more of our best selves, we are encouraged to see money as a tool, an energetic tool, which we can use as architects in our own lives, carving out our dreams. And we can still dream according to Harper, if we wake up and smell the coffee about true wealth.

He does not preach that we should abandon all desire for material things – many of which depreciate – though he does cite Director Tom Shadyac’s documentary I Am, which detailed how Shadyac downgraded his possessions to live a simpler life. The only thing Harper insists is that we consider what we truly need, and that we should simply ‘hail happiness’ and desire ‘unreasonable joy.’

Hill Harper

money+wellness=wealth

The Wealth Cure is a joy to read largely due to its engaging parable approach and wise words, many of which are passed on from Harper’s friends and relatives. Other pull-quotes come from sources as varied as Rappers Ice Cube and Will Smith, to philosophers, religious leaders and financial advisers. The pages are also decorated with Harper’s passion for Etymology, and adorned with inspiring examples of resourcefulness and entrepreneurship embodied by the likes of Shane and Shawn Ward.

Though Harvard graduate Harper does make a distinction between ‘smart money’ such as cash spent on goods and services that we need, and ‘dumb money’ such as interest on credit cards, this is not a dry tale of profit and loss. It is far richer than that – laced with history lessons about the likes of Dred Scott and George Pullman.

Documenting the cross-country train ride, which was the breeding ground for much of the copy, Harper, who has had successful surgery, takes the reader on an emotional journey where we can meet the characters in his life, and learn from their relationships with money; good and bad, as we begin to reevaluate our own.

The Wealth Cure is out now published by Gotham Books priced $26/£18.99 RRP. It is also available as an E-Book and as Penguin Audio.

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Congratulations…Beyonce is pregnant!

Beyonce

Beyonce arrives at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards in LA to make an award worthy announcement

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Aaliyah Dana Haughton RIP

Aaliyah

Aaliyah Dana Haughton 1979 - 2001

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RIP Nick Ashford

Nickolas Ashford

Nick Ashford

Like all fans of good music, I was shocked to hear about the passing of Motown songwriter Nickolas Ashford this week. Ironically his death was somewhat overshadowed in the media by the equally tragic passing of Jerry Leiber who penned many hits for Elvis Presley.

The legacy of both writers is in their catalogues. Ashford, who met his wife and songwriting partner Valerie Simpson in church, wrote classics such as You’re All I Need To Get By and the Chaka Khan hit, I’m Every Woman. As a duet the couple are best known for the 1980s anthem with Solid (As A Rock). They were inducted into into the Songwriters Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

Overcoming homelessness at the start of his journey to success, Ashford, and his wife went on to pen songs for the likes of Ray Charles’s (Let’s Get Stoned), Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing), and Diana Ross’s first solo single, Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand). Ashford and Simpson also grace the sleeve notes of Amy Winhouse’s Back To Black album with a co-writing credit on Tears Dry On Their Own, which contains a sample from Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.

Ashford and Simpson’s last release was the 2009 CD and DVD of their live performances titled The Real Thing.  The 14 track CD with 65 minutes of vibrant live footage is a ticket to experience the musical magic that iconic singer-songwriters Ashford and Simpson embody. Ashford and Simpson are stamped all over modern times being sampled on Mary J Blige and Method Man’s You’re All I Need To Get By, and with a timely remix to Solid (Solid (As Barack), released for Obama’s 2008 inauguration, and parodied on Saturday Night Live, they proved that they remained relevant.

Recipients of The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers’ (ASCAP) highest honour, The Founder’s Award in 1999, Ashford and Simpson’s music is epitomised as being the fine wine of the industry – only sounding better with age. Young and old indulge in their refreshing bridge from old school to new school.

Tributes have poured in from the music world for the musical genius who is survived by his wife and their daughters Nicole and Asia. Due to Hurricane Irene Ashford’s funeral has been delayed until Monday 29 August. Mr Ashford thank you for the inspiration; rest in peace.

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Hairstyle Influences of R&B Stars

In June of this year, a judge in the United Kingdom ruled that a school’s ban on a young boy’s cornrows was “indirect racial discrimination.” The High Court ruled against St. Gregory’s Catholic Science College, a secondary school in North London, England.

In September 2009, the Boy, known as “G,” was refused entry on his first day for breaking the strict uniform policy. It is reported that the school was concerned that some hairstyles represented the gang culture in the area. The school, which is rated as excellent by the regulator Ofsted, allegedly prefers hairstyles with a short back and sides. It apparently also bans fully shaven hair, to avoid the skinhead look associated with right wing racist groups.

R Kelly

Have stars such as R Kelly popularised cornrows for males?

The court was reportedly told that cornrows were part of G’s family tradition and that he had not cut his hair since birth. The family’s attorney, Angela Jackman, from Maxwell Gillott, said: “…St Gregory’s Catholic Science College operates a policy which does not fully comply with current equalities legislation. We believe it discriminates against boys of African heritage by disregarding a widely recognized cultural practice.”

The case caused widespread debate with some saying that all pupils should have to comply with such uniform policies to enforce discipline, and that the ban would apply in countries such as Jamaica.

Since I was a young girl, and still to this day, I have occasionally worn cornrows. However, I recall men and boys adopting the look being a more recent thing in England–hairstyles with a short back and side being more popular when I was growing up. I think the way boys wear their hair owes something to their cultural heritage dating back to Africa or the Caribbean, but it also owes something to fashion and to their cultural icons.

Read more of this post.

posted by The UK Corner in Hair and beauty,Music and have Comment (1)

The UK Corner concert review: Naughty by Nature and Ice Cube @ Indigo2

You never quite know what to expect from a Hip-Hop gig. Indigo2 had intense security. I wasn’t quite dressed for any raucous behaviour wearing sandals, but luckily, my feet escaped injury in the testosterone filled environment. This was the perfect playground for New Jersey’s reunited Naughty by Nature, who came to party!

Vin Rock

Vin Rock

Treach

Treach

The Grammy Award-winning trio performed all their hits including the infectious O.P.P. Amid the old school revival, they paid homage to their peers across genres when DJ Kay Gee (who brought us Koffee Brown and also worked with Zhane and Next), played DMX’s Up In Here, House of Pain’s Jump Around, B.O.B ft. Bruno Mars’ Nothin On You and Snoop and Pharrell’s Beautiful. Such was the diversity of the 2,400 strong audience — a mixture of races, ages and genders.

Treach and Vin Rock were on full form embracing role-play to excite the crowd. Tracks such as Craziest, a reworking of Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry – Everything’s Gonna be All Right and It’s On, only added more fuel to the fire. Celebrating their 20 year anniversary; Naughty by Nature were keen to perform new material Flags and to plug their social media platforms, but the crowd were 100% invested in a live interaction with the Hip-Hop veterans.

The good vibes continued with Jamboree and Clap Yo Hands before Treach sipped on some Courvoisier while resisting chants to ‘down it.’ Soberly, Treach paid homage to Tupac who he acted alongside in Juice. Looking at his tattoo on his left arm he performed Hail Mary/Mourn You Till I Join You, which he wrote after Tupac died. Ashes to Ashes, Tupac’s California Love and a tribute to Biggie followed this while Treach warned about the dangers of allowing external forces into friendships.

But things turned ugly when Treach angrily reacted to a member of the audience who he alleged had given him the finger all night. After offering to replace the towel on the man’s face with his underpants, Treach calmed down and tipped his hat to the UK’s Slick Rick with a rendition of We Like to Party. Ending with their hits Feel Me Flow and Hip-Hop Hooray, they departed the stage.

Ice cube

Ice cube

It would take a special act to fill the vacuum they left. But despite the sound of his name, Ice Cube, 42, had not come to douse the flames of entertainment. Arriving to Issac Hayes’ Theme From Shaft, he was every bit blaxploitation with his mini Afro and Afro pick! If his words didn’t emphasize that he was representing’ the Westside, the glittery Ws on his shirt made the statement. The glitter extended to his trainers and he sparkled in his role as entertainer.

Alongside DJ Crazy Toones and rapper WC, he took the audience back to 1989, the days of NWA and beyond. Classics such as Straight out of Compton, Hello, Jack N The Box, Natural Born Killazs, Check Your Self, Why We Thugs, Can You Bounce, Smoke Some Weed, You Can Do It, Bow Down, Life In California, Go to Church and Bop Gun transcended time. His crip walking completed the gangster theme to the evening. With his expertise in acting, directing and producing, Ice Cube executed the show well, commandeering the stage with perfect timing and dramatically finishing tracks with each one punctuated by darkness.

Ice cube

Ice cube disturbing the peace

On a lighter note rapper WC performed a great track from his album Revenge of the Barracuda. While that was well received, the audience did not take too kindly to talk of a gig at Cardiff the previous night. While Ice Cube sung London’s praises, he asked his DJ how he was feeling explaining that his mood dictated the quality of music he would spin. When It Was A Good Day came on; the crowd knew DJ Loony Tunes was as elated as they were.

Having come on stage slightly late, Ice Cube was annoyed when he was asked to finish but defiantly, he performed two more tracks. The first She Couldn’t Make it On Her Own featured his son Doughboy (The name of Ice Cube’s Boyz n the Hood character, the  iconic film which celebrated it’s 20 year anniversary on 12 July) AKA Darryl, who is featured on his last album, I Am the West, and the second, Gangsta Nation, a tribute to the late Nate Dogg.

Leaving in the same style with which he arrived, Ice Cube’s closing theme song was The O’Jays’ Back Stabbers. While he offered to sign CDs and T-shirts in the back, ironically the audience was led out of a side door. But memories beat mementos; on their highly anticipated return to UK shores, these legends did Hip-Hop proud.

Copyright © 2011 The UK Corner. All Rights Reserved.

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Music Potential

All roads lead to Music Potential on 21 July. For eight hours, this free event at Wembley Arena will give young people a taste of the music industry. Star of the show will be Wretch 32. Rising UK hip hop star Jermaine Scott, aka Wretch 32, is the  face of Music Potential – a partnership between Choice FM and Barclaycard Unwind. The initiative, run by the radio station’s youth project ‘I Have a Choice’, was set up to offer 16-25 year olds their first step toward a career in the music or radio industry. Free workshops will include music production, mixing, film making and vocal skills. The event caps a programme of training events for 900 young people; where wretch will take part in a Q&A session about his route into the music industry.

Find out how to make money and how to market your music. Budding stars can also submit a demo at the Music Potential event and be selected to win a professional recording session with Wretch32 at the Point Black studios .

Wrecth32

Wretch 32

Wretch 32, signed to Ministry Of Sound/Levels Recordings, is currently riding high in the UK charts with his latest single, Unorthodox, a collaboration with fellow rapper Example.  His tracks draw on his experiences growing up among the high rises of Tottenham’s Tiverton Estate and the notorious Broadwater Farm. His first major label single, Traktor, reached the UK Top 10 in January.

Wretch 32 says: “…It’s tough for kids growing up – so easy to make foolish choices. I’m behind anything that gives them a chance to achieve their dreams, get out of the situation they’re in…I’ve come out the other side and the music industry is a paradise for me – hopefully this will give other kids the chance to experience that too.” For more information visit: http://www.choice-fm.co.uk/life/music-potential/.

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The UK Corner concert review: J Holiday and Ginuwine @ indigo2

In her black and silver unitard, Nigerian singing sensation May7ven (AKA Yemisi May Odegbami) and her trio of backing dancers were the only females to grace the indigo2 stage. With May7ven, who performed Number and Hands Up as supporting act, perhaps it was no coincidence that her business partner DJ Abrantee was the compere for the night. The boisterous host mostly kept the crowd onside apart from insulting those standing with jibes about being too cheap to reserve seats!

But those downstairs were most excited when J Holiday arrived on stage. Looking casual, Holiday sang You Should Be With Me and Back Of My Lac over backing tracks mixed by his DJ. Not for the first time in the night there was a tribute to Jodeci with Freak You. But Holiday struggled to take the audience back in time alongside his attempt to capture their attention in the present moment.

 

J Holiday

J Holiday

Without Holiday taking full advantage of his space, there was too much room for his entourage to distract. To the side were no less than three videographers of some description capturing personal footage.

His hype man was humorous as he mimed and wandered around the stage. He took initiative to grab posters from the audience for Holiday to autograph. But he was also responsible for launching the ‘missiles’, which flew into the audience and provoked desperate fans to fight over sweaty towels!

Singing the virtues of smoking, Holiday 27, attempted an ‘acoustic’ moment – over synthesised beats he sang Hydro and a snippet of Musical Youth’s Pass The Dutchie. Young girls buzzed as he teased them with a partial strip to the sounds of Mary Jane, before premiering the first live performance of Suffocate but the finale was most anticipated; his biggest hit Put You To Bed.

 

Ginuwine

Ginuwine

The audience was far from ready to sleep. While some scurried off to fulfill earlier Twitter requests for pictures with J Holiday; the rest of the crowd eagerly awaited Ginuwine. But the wait was elongated by the presence of Ricky Rush The Rook (and a third singer who shall remain nameless because the DJ came in too soon and an irritated Ginuwine did not have enough time to complete his name check) who sang R. Kelly’s Bump and Grind as they attempted to arouse the crowd. Despite their low mics they performed powerful harmonies.

Kicking off with Same Old G, Ginuwine wanted the fans to know that nothing had changed. From Stingy to Hell Yeah he displayed the same vocal prowess and visual enchantment, which has anchored his place in music over the last fifteen years.

Effortlessly, he worked the stage challenging the ladies to profess their love for him, but when their exclamations failed to meet the grade, he walked off. Back in all white, he launched into None Of Your Friends Business followed by So Anxious.

 

Ginuwine

Ginuwine thrills

He reprised Jodeci’s Freak You, which then morphed into Those Jeans. Ginuwine’s set was short but sweet as a promotional vehicle for his latest album Elgin. He performed a cut from it – Drink of Choice – that in his own words ‘did not do what he had wanted’, but Ginuwine was understanding as he noticed that few people in the audience knew the lyrics.

Before departing the stage, Ginuwine acknowledged personal triumphs and tragedies – the subject of his new reality show, before paying tribute to the man who inspired his career – Michael Jackson!

Once he had his special white and gold trainers, the DJ played The Way You Make Me Feel, Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough and Billie Jean while Ginuwine danced and mimed. He continued the party vibes with his biggest hit Pony and left the audience riding on a wave of nostalgia. Though few embraced his offer of paying £5 to take a picture with him, Ginuwine still paints a portrait of an underrated performer.

Copyright © 2011 The UK Corner. All Rights Reserved.

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The UK Corner theatre review: Fixer @ Oval House

Lydia Adetunji’s political play Fixer starts slowly. With a weighty storyline, Adetunji must get the pace just right. She manages this feat with impressive direction by Dan Barnard and Rachel Briscoe. In a simple set with only airline passenger seats and a crate of Guinness, they transport the audience to northern Nigeria.

The minimalism is enhanced by the energy embodied in sound and lighting effects, which frame each scene. Scenes are further charged with kinetic energy as the dynamic cast run, walk and kneel around the periphery of the stage. The atmosphere is electric and, electrocuted; the audience remains transfixed for the duration of the play.

Fixer cast

The cast of Fixer

Fixer appeals in every direction. It references left wing environmentalism and right wing economics. Centering on geopolitics and the media frenzy around an attack on a new oil pipeline, the play highlights the spin put on militancy.

In the struggle for the inside scoop, fixer Chuks (Richard Pepple) puts his life at risk as go-between for foreign correspondents and local groups. The role is financially lucrative but dangerous. In a world where corruption and bribery is rife, Chuks takes his chance to make a better life for himself and his sick daughter.

Fixer

L to R: Damola Adelaja as Laurence, Alex Barclay as Dave and Richard Pepple as Chucks

As a former journalist, Adetunji’s drama insightfully questions journalistic integrity and the price of human life amid ego driven career climbing. While the journalists use their contacts, capital and cultural heritage to advance, locals must rely on their wits.

With so many journalists as part of cast and crew, Fixer provides the perfect mouthpiece to frankly explore the ongoing issues of Nigerian activism and petroleum politics. This is an important play on important issues.

Fixer runs Tuesdays – Sundays at 7.45pm, until 10 July. Tickets are £14.00/£7.00 concessions. For more on Fixer, visit Oval House Theatre’s website.

Copyright © 2011 The UK Corner. All Rights Reserved.

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The UK Corner theatre review: Six Rounds @ Lost theatre

At the start of John Oluwole Adekoje’s play, the main character Ace (Anthony Vander), in his underpants alone, recounting the lifetimes of a black man from slavery to civil rights and beyond, seems to promise a spiritual reconnection with ancestry and a tale of rites of passage. The posters though, are more befitting of the plot.

In this round, the American ‘boxer’, Ace is in the fight of his life to live and be alive. But his opponents in the ring of life are an abusive father Moses (Darren Raymond), a criminal and disabled brother Solo (Tommy Coleman), a wife Amy (Eliza Anderson) wanting a baby and to break away from his family, and a mother Rebekah (Nakeba Buchanan who starred in Dead Man Running alongside 50 Cent) and sister Trisha (Dubem Nuabe), who are desperate to break a cycle of abuse and poverty.

Six Rounds

L to R: Anthony Vander as Ace and Tommy Coleman as Solo

The largely British cast (Coleman is the only American) pulls off American accents well. But with such a large cast accompanied by a complex storyline, the audience must work hard to stay aboard Adekoje’s ship. The wind in its sails is fanned by Coleman’s quips and Buchanan’s presence among other things. But the audience is left wanting more from the characters.

 

Six Rounds

L to R: Chrish Mitchell as Detective and Anthony Vander as Ace

Though stories of gun crime, race and ‘snitching’ are old territory, what is most fresh about the play is the way that Director Prav MJ presents the next generation of the family. The mysterious boy played by Caleb Frederick awaits his calling and has you guessing about his identity.

The stage is sparse except for the turntables and graffiti by artist EdgE: ‘Life’, ‘Chaos’, ‘Death’. A raw hip-hop soundtrack is characterised in the play by DJ Elegba – hype man and referee. Hip-hop complements Adekoje’s poetic style well.

With the likes of Hollywood actor Idris Elba rumored to be catching the show it may be worth buying a ticket while there are still some left!

Six Rounds continues at the Lost Theatre until 2 July. Tickets are £7 / £5 concessions. Show starts 7.30pm. For more on Six Rounds visit: www.pravmjdirect.com

Copyright © 2011 The UK Corner. All Rights Reserved.

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Hair raising tips for your child’s hair

Hair artist Marcia Hamilton has famously worked with ten-year-old Willow Smith, whom she accompanied on tour with Justin Beiber in March. The sophisticated hairstyles which Smith has sported in her Whip Your Hair back video have led to some critics asking if hairstyles should have age certifications. Below is Hamilton’s guide to the rules to follow and break with your child’s hair.

Marcia Hamilton

Marcia Hamilton by Kawai Matthews (AirPhilosophy.com)

Regimes

As well as the wide tooth comb, the hair oil and the satin headscarf, managing your child’s hair takes time and attention; enter the hairdresser who can help define your child’s hair texture and treatment for it. Hamilton says: “I think parents should take their child to a professional at least every three or four months to have their hair conditioned and trimmed. Hair like ours tends to get dry very quickly and when you comb the hair it breaks because it’s so brittle and you get split ends and your hair will never have the chance to grow.”

There are other advantages to working with professionals as Hamilton explains: “A hair stylist lets you know where your child’s hair is at; I think sometimes parents get very busy and that child is left combing their own hair. I remember one of my friends decided to trust her daughter to take care of her hair. One day she combed it herself and found a dread in the back so we need to definitely keep on top of what’s going on!”

Products

In these austere times, paying a hairdresser can be hard so it is important for parents to familiarise themselves with the best products to use. Hamilton does not endorse any specific brand but she has advice about the ingredients you should look for. She says: “You want to choose a moisturising conditioner. Depending on the styles you do on your child’s hair, I would suggest you go a little more natural. Because your child’s hair is so gentle and sensitive, you should sulphate-free shampoo so that the natural oils aren’t stripped out of the hair.”

For a moisturising conditioner and sulphate-free shampoo try Phillip Kingsley’s Moisture Extreme shampoo and conditioner which have been created specifically for all variations of ethnic hair.

Moisture Extreme Shampoo £14.30

Moisture Extreme Conditioner £17.40

Styling

Pigtails and canerows no longer define little black girls. Increasingly their emblems are relaxers. Hamilton says: “I think as far as relaxing hair goes, if you’re not a teenager I don’t think you should because your hair structure has not fully developed yet. I think that before applying harsh chemicals you should definitely give it a minute.”

All types of pressure on the hair should be minimised from heat to tight hair bands. Hamilton explains: “Over my years I’ve noticed children who get their hair pulled too tightly starting to develop traction alopecia – thin hair around the perimeter of their head. Parents, do your self a favour and don’t brush or pull so tightly.

“When you’re getting braids be more gentle around the hairline and make bigger sections. Try different styles so not to get their hair accustomed to one thing and to avoid traction alopecia.”

With new young style icons emerging such as Willow Smith, parents are facing dilemmas about how to style their children’s hair. Smith is a singer and actress with superstar parents. Surely this gives her a license to have extreme hairstyles? Hamilton says: “When working with Willow, I usually like to create on what she is feeling in that moment depending on if it’s a red carpet event or if it’s a photo shoot. I build around the wardrobe and I build around emotions.”

Hamilton is almost emotional about the styles she has witnessed in the UK. “People in England just have a sense of their own style and they have and individual look as oppose to that cookie cutter look.”

Experiment

It can be hard for parents to admit that their child is growing up and leaving the cookie cutters behind. Sometimes we forget how much expression is a part of growing up. Hamilton say’s: “In 2011 I think a girl should be as expressive as she wants to be. If parents are more conservative they will guide their child in that direction. But I think that sometimes as parents we tend to impose on our kids what we feel and I think it’s important to listen to our children and keep an open mind. If they want to dye their hair flaming red; they’re six-years-old, you find a middle ground. Instead of dying her hair red like coolade, do a few streaks and play around. If a child wants to experiment with colour, instead of going full on with a permanent colour, you can experiment with cellophane and semi-permanent.

“Don’t give your ten-year-old daughter weave down her back but if she wants hair falling down her back, think about having braids. Find the middle ground in creating an age-appropriate style for a child.

“I definitely encourage parents to find some way that their kids can express themselves in beauty as opposed to in other ways. When kids don’t get what they want one way they go in another direction.”

Attitude

I love my hair

I love my Hair: TM and © 2011 Sesame Workshop. All Rights Reserved. Photographer: Zach Hyman.

In October 2010 the I Love My Hair song debuted on an episode of Sesame Street. The unnamed puppet with an Afro who sang an ode to her hair became an Internet sensation.

Joey Mazzarino, the head writer of Sesame Street, was inspired to write the song for his adopted Ethiopian daughter, who he noticed had reservations about her hair. Though the song touched adult and child alike in the virtual community, in the real world there continues to be conflict about definitions of ‘good’ hair.

Hamilton sees a correlation between hair and self-esteem. She says: “With your kids, you always need to let them know that what they possess is amazing and beautiful. Work with what they have instead of trying to get something totally different and teach them to love their own hair and to love themselves.

“I have clients that are in their forties that have had a relaxer since they were twelve-years-old and when I try to tell them well ‘let’s try something different’, they look at me like I’m crazy. Ever since they were twelve-years-old they were brainwashed that having kinky hair is not beautiful. So for me to suggest that to them at forty is like oh no! So if you start from when they’re young then you won’t run into these problems when they are older.”

posted by The UK Corner in Hair and beauty and have Comments Off on Hair raising tips for your child’s hair

The UK Corner concert review: Fantasia @ Indigo2

Following PAs by Cherri V, Raymond & Co and Cynthia Erivo, at 9.45pm, fans may have feared that Fantasia wasn’t going to provide value for money but her set made the hour and 15 minutes that she was on stage seem elastic.

In an understated summer dress, Fantasia left the little black dress to her backing singer and kicked off her shoes though she temporarily left on her bling. Her comfortable look may fuel rumours that she is pregnant, but the way she bounced around the stage until her petticoat was showing may suggest otherwise.

Opening the set with Free Yourself followed by Man of The House, Fantasia soon had the crowd energised. With her warm and humorous girl next door attitude, Fantasia gibed about the security railings which separated the fans from the stage saying that she had threatened to walk off stage the last time she saw them.

She was in no mood for distance as she launched in the Motown tinged Collard Greens and Cornbread. This only got the crowd hungry for more of her heartfelt soul. Her facial expressions alone proved how much passion Fantasia was putting into her performance.

Fantasia

Fantasia

iPads and mobile phones tried to capture the moments but Fantasia has talent that is uncontainable. I entered the gig not knowing what to expect. Being impressed by her first two albums and her performance on American Idol, after all the gossip I’d seen about her online, I had forgotten what had made her famous.

What was special about her set was the sprinkling of odes to the music she had a personal connection with. From fragments of SWV’s Rain to Missy’s I Can’t Stand the Rain. This meteorological theme may symbolise the torrential weathering that Fantasia has endured.

But as in life Fantasia played on emotionally singing autobiographical material such as I’m His Only Woman through trembling lips. Fantasia came determined to satisfy all extremes of her diverse audience so it should perhaps be no surprise that she performed Prince’s Kiss. This was the perfect soundtrack to her jamming session and reason enough to kick off her shoes.

With the party truly started, she continued with her own material including the popular When I See You. Acknowledging those in the audience who like to be coy in showing their appreciation, Fantasia was underscored by her first cousins K-Ci and JoJo’s Get On Up, which was mixed with Overnight Scenario. This was followed by a snippet of Soul II Soul’s Back to Life.

Fantasia

Fantasia goes all out!

Fantasia’s vocals were superb and all the more uplifting to hear knowing she had survived a tumour on her vocal cords. Despite the odd sound problem, she shined as she continued with Teach Me and more jokes! She easily built a rapport with the crowd who were moved by her stirring rendition of Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry, which was all too short.

But Fantasia has her own quality material to perform not least the Grammy award winning Bittersweet, which won her the Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance this year. Having arrived on stage with Grammy in hand, Fantasia had set the tone for an outstanding night.

Before the night was out she promised to take the audience to church and with I’m Doing Me, she did, after proclaiming that she no longer lives her life for folk! Her songs take on quite the confessional edge and she professed that she did not need a microphone as she gave her testimony. She really brought the house down when with a tearful and spine-tingling rendition of Even Angels.

To warm us up, Fantasia took us back to her first album to get up-tempo. Though she professed that the men in the audience may not like the song, she committed to her performance of Baby mama to the delight of the women in the audience. Perhaps to win the men back over, she sought a man to hold her, but when the offers came in she shied away saying she was ‘scarred’!

Fantasia

All eyes on Ms Barrino

She briefly went back to her Idol days with a too short performance of Summertime but as a silver lining to this cloud, her next song was the hit single Hood Boy. Having earlier hinted to her opposition to being separated from her fans, Fantasia got off stage to take photos and sing directly in front of the first row.

This was a polished set; Fantasia’s only failing was that she did not name check her extensive band featuring (two male and one female) backing singers, two keyboardists, a drummer, a guitarist, a trumpeter and a saxophonist, who like sorcerers, further fuelled the magic.

Copyright © 2011 The UK Corner. All Rights Reserved.

posted by The UK Corner in Music and have Comments (15)

The UK Corner concert review: Eric Benét @ Indigo2

Jeans, blazer, waistcoat, shirt, tie, shades; smart and sophisticated was the dress code for Eric Benét at this appearance at the Indigo2. Usually a resident at the Jazz Café, Benét transferred his intimate show to a larger venue without losing any intimacy. His falsetto alone can command attention in any environment. With the Furious Five as his backing band (John Rich – musical director/keys, Afton ‘AJ’ Johnson – bass, Johnny Johnson – guitar, John McVicker – drums/background vocals), Benét effortlessly entranced the audience singing hypnotic songs such as When You Think Of Me.
With charm and wit, the mesmerizing audio-induced trance was broken intermittently when a talkative Benét shared his musings even hinting at his initial meeting with his ex-wife Halle Berry. Laced with love, his set was the perfect backdrop for couples in the audience who embraced and danced to the romantic grooves.
Chocolate Legs from the Love and Life album got the whole crowd excited as Benét joked about the fans that had questioned his selective song title. He assured them that it was inclusive not exclusive referencing the array of chocolate available from caramel to butterscotch to Latin flavoured chocolate and Wasabi flavoured chocolate!

Eric Benét

Eric Benét just getting started!

The sweetness and diversity of Benét’s vocal ability can rival any type of confectionary. Many of the ladies in the audience would happily forfeit chocolate for Benét. There is one lady besides his fiancé Manuela Testolini who perhaps was the envy of all for she shared the stage with him. Leah Labelle was the sole backing singer. The Bulgarian star of American Idol took the reigns to sing the lyrics made famous by Tamia on the Grammy nominated wedding favourite Share My Life.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin native Benét continued his stellar performance going back to his first album True to Myself with the funky Spiritual Thang before bringing things up-to-date with the melancholy Sometimes I Cry and the haunting Never Want To Live Without You.
As a prelude to songs from his latest album Lost in Time which is tinged with seventies soul, Benét, 40, denounced the heavy reliance on modern technology and auto tune and praised the value of music which hits the heart – relying on real instrumentation and vocal ability. He preached to the converted who echoed his advocacy of passion over profit. Responsive, he not only took off his shades he was also open to requests. Jumping off the stage to shake hands and take photos it was at times hard to see the star but he kept shining.

Eric Benét

Benét the star...

It wasn’t all jazzy slow jams; Benét knows how to party and the energetic Feel Good, with Labelle taking Faith Evan’s part, and Weekend Girl, were the perfect soundtrack for the fiesta. The party threatened to end early when Benét left the stage but the audience demanded an encore not least because two of his most popular tracks from his second album A Day In The Life had yet to be sung.
The screams and applause were rewarded with the Latin infused Why You Follow Me which exceeds it’s infectious nature live. The party was in full swing now complete with steamy salsa dancing from Benét and the lucky Labelle. Georgey Porgy gave Labelle another chance to step into Evan’s shoes as she took her vocals but his time the duet became a threesome with the crowd enlisted for the chorus having warmed up with scales earlier! The temperature dipped a little when Benét revealed a little too much about one of his band members during their introductions. But if it was a bad move to get too personal it was a better move to pay homage to the King of Pop with a rendition of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. He may have ended with borrowed material but for 90 minutes Benét was unashamedly his soulful self. What more could you ask for?

Eric Benét

Just Benét, just his way!

Copyright © 2011 The UK Corner. All Rights Reserved.

posted by The UK Corner in Music and have Comments (2)

Good hair gone bad?

Brixton’s Ritzy Cinema is buzzing with excitement ­– the foyer is overflowing with people keen to watch, or re-watch, Good Hair – Chris Rock’s inspired documentary, which won the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. To add to the electrifying atmosphere, ‘the Rock’ is in the building and will be fielding questions after the film.

Powerful as it is, the film is informative, provocative and of course hairlirious! Rock is a natural documentarian and it should come as no surprise considering that his stand-up has always involved social commentary.

On this occasion black hair is under the microscope. Rock has faced a backlash from some who complain that he is washing ‘our dirty linen in public’. Indeed his appearance on the Graham Norton show in May caused a stir when he commented on Michelle Obama’s hair. Some felt that this was out of line and he was somehow exposing her.

Now while no woman would want all their beauty secrets revealed, black women shouldn’t feel ashamed about dying their hair, wearing weaves, wigs or hair pieces because such hair options are increasingly used by women of all ethnicities. Hairdresser Andrew Collinge commissioned a survey, which revealed that the average British woman changes her hairstyle 104 times in her lifetime. The main reasons being “boredom'” with their current look or the end of a relationship.

However, the film can easily be misunderstood. At the Ritzy when a white man stood up to ask Rock a question, he wanted to make himself heard amid the background noise. He jokingly referenced his own hair saying “Good Hair” as a license to speak. As the pantomime boos erupted Rock warned him that the place was liable to descend into a football match…

The idea has often been kicked around that black women wear weaves etc because they want to meet western standards of beauty and have issues with identity. In the film Rock passes no judgment but he has said that if the film could make one difference, he hopes kiddie perms could be removed from shelves.

“When it comes to kids you do go, ‘Wow! Are you nuts?’ The little girl in the chair with all that relaxant (sodium hydroxide) in her hair! And she wasn’t even crying. She’s had so much of it that she’s actually used to it. Her head has a high tolerance for burning. Stuff like that makes me go, ‘Why are you putting that in a little girl’s hair?”

Chris Rock

Chris Rock oversees an early application of relaxer

The film was inspired by Rock’s daughter Lola who asked, ‘Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?” But the kernel for the film was planted years before. He says, “It was over 20 years ago, and I was in Atlanta and I stumbled across the Bronner Bros hair show. I thought straightaway that it was a movie, but back then they weren’t doing funny documentaries. There was no reality TV shows. No Internet. It was another world. So you jump ahead to now, and my daughters are having hair issues, saying, ‘How come I don’t have good hair?’ meaning, hair like they see in the media, not African hair, and I start to think, Maybe I can do a movie about that hair show now?”

But what is Good Hair? It has often been perceived as hair that is manageable and long. Biblically, your hair is your crown and glory. Imagine if you had alopecia or lost your hair due to chemotherapy, wouldn’t you simply miss your own hair whatever it was like? It is true that weaves and extensions can damage your hair through causing undue tension. Pictures of Naomi Campbell in June were testimony to this fact.

Renee Lagrange of the Black Hair Clinic in Harley Street is a Trichologist specialising in black hair, she says, “Good Hair is by definition healthy hair which will retain length and full density. The key to healthy hair is hydration. If you want “Good Hair” you have to work hard at it and be consistent.”

Hair can be a delicate subject but Rock, who has sported several hairstyles over the years including Jheri Curl, is never one to shy away from controversy. He makes jokes about public personas such as Prince.

Rock says, “… You don’t want to hurt anyone. I knew people would all be sensitive about their hair. So no one got hurt. Unless Prince is mad. But I haven’t spoken to him in a while…

“When I’m doing a show, I think a show where people are a little pissed off in the middle is a better show then a show where everybody’s just laughing mindlessly for a whole hour. I want them happy, I want them sad, and I want them clapping, and booing. That’s a show. That’s a journey.”

In the film, several celebrities speak candidly about hair including Salt n Pepa, who reveal where Pepa’s distinctive asymmetric hair style evolved from and Nia Long who debates the impact of hair and dating. Rock has had longstanding relationships with many of the celebrities, and his credits as a Director and Producer on his show Everybody Hates Chris meant that few said no, but there were exceptions.

Chris Rock in the salon

Would you say no to Chris?

“I tried to get Diana Ross, because a lot of people talked about Diana Ross on camera. But we had to cut it out in the end, because she didn’t want to do it, and it didn’t seem right to have them talking about her without her commenting on it. Plus, it’s a documentary, and you’re asking for people’s time, and you’re not paying them for it. Someone like Diana Ross has a right to stay in her house.”

But it is not only stars that are contributing to America’s multi-billion dollar black hair industry. Rock encounters everyday people on his whistle stop tour through beauty salons and barbershops who invest a lot of money in weaves.

Members of the audience at the Ritzy wondered if Rock was moved to invest in the infrastructure of the industry and move it out of the hands of Asian business people but as Rock said, it is literally their hair that is being sold!

His most intriguing characters are part of the hairstyling battles that were reminiscent of the Afro Hair and Beauty Show. But while they make you smile, the people he meets in the scientific laboratories that demonstrate the destructive nature of relaxers or ‘creamy crack,’ and his visit to an Indian temple to see where the human hair originates, makes you wonder if the sacrifices are worth it.

Perhaps the most disturbing scene is when Rock goes into a hair shop and tries to sell real Afro hair and they decline his offer saying it wouldn’t sell. I was saddened when I once saw young girls on the bus mocking a girl because she had her hair out in an Afro and they felt it was unkempt. I wondered if we as their elders owed it to them to embrace our natural selves and remind them how beautiful it can be.

It would be sad if the next generation sees the iconic symbolism of Angela Davis’ Afro as passé. In the film, a young student said an Afro would not be suitable for the workplace. But an Afro should be seen as empowering not threatening. This was a sentiment that I tried to express in my poem I am My Hair published in Nicole Moore ‘s Hair Power Skin Revolution.

Rock did not set out to define what good hair is but why his daughter felt the need to ask the question. He doesn’t tell women how to wear their hair noting that both his wife and mother had relaxed their hair at sometime, the film is not a crusade to encourage black women to grow locks. Instead he encourages women to do what feels right for them.

posted by The UK Corner in Film, DVD and TV,Hair and beauty and have Comments (10)