Today I finally finished reading a delicious book, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. I actually started it last summer, but a hectic schedule made me put it aside. I have heard many women pan this book, and plenty others love it since I started it, but I loved it from its first pages, and I’m sorry to have the story come to an end.
This story is a non-fiction travel and spiritual memoir of a woman whose marriage has come to an end. The women who have hated this book are usually “happily married” with kids, and or uncomfortable with their own sense of self. This book is a memoir, for goodness sake, the tale of a woman on her own journey to herself, so the perspective is exactly what it needs to be. As another woman whose marriage fell apart around the time of September 11th, I was amazed at how much I related to her journey. Through a year of travel to Italy, India, and Indonesia, Elizabeth Gilbert takes the most important journey: the one inside herself.
As anyone who has had the fortitude to go on such a journey could tell you, it is not easy. And in my opinion, anyone who bristles at this woman’s story could probably benefit from a little self-searching of their own.
We are born alone, and we die alone. As humans, I don’t believe that we are only here to live for others. It’s important to examine our lives, and admit that we have many shortcomings. But we also have wonderful parts too. This book demonstrates our shadow side as well as our light, and I highly recommend it for anyone else willing to embark upon their own spiritual journey – even if it’s only from an armchair.
Tonight I’ve returned home to Cuba.
Oh, wait a second – I’m not Cuban. Or am I? A friend invited me out to a tiny club in Washington Heights this evening to see a band called The Cuban Underground, and although I’m often happy to be a homebody, I surprised myself by wanting to go. She promised that the band played amazing Cuban music, and that was a promise that I could not afford to ignore. I’m from Miami, which is home to many expatriated Cubans, so I’m quite familiar with the culture. The fact that I was also part of a musical Cuban family, regardless of how long ago that seems now, is also important.
I moved to NYC in 1995 with my then-boyfriend, a Cuban piano master. It sounds weird to describe someone this way, but it’s the truth. This guy could play anything, and had been playing everything since the ripe old age of 4 and a half. He had originally taken to the drums (in the form of pots and pans), but his father, also a musician, believed the piano to be a more complete instrument, and would steer his tiny son towards the piano whenever Junior had a hankering to play the pots and pans. Eventually the father’s persuasion won out, and Junior took to the piano like a fish to water. Of course, his son developed a hard, percussive style of playing the piano, so I guess things evened themselves out. The son studied classical piano performance in a government-run conservatory, and after Fidel Castro’s Mariel Boatlift, the family defected to Miami.
Sometime around 1992, the piano master met me, a fledgling singer at the time. Without getting into my own family dramas here, I spent a lot of time with his family, who heartily accepted me. For one thing, to his family, pursuing a career as a musician was a worthy goal. They never asked me who did I think I was to call myself a singer, or when would I get a real job. When I had performances, they would come. When I got the call to audition for Ricky Martin’s back-up singer (this was years before “Living La Vida Loca”), they stayed up and transcribed the Spanish lyrics and translated them for me. When I went on tour with the Spanish singer Rafael, they were my biggest fans. I was their other daughter. I ate his mother’s arroz y plantanos, his sisters’ black beans and rice, and hosted Easter Egg hunts for his nephews. His family didn’t speak much English, so I became conversationally fluent in Spanish. With food that good, a mere “Thank you” in English never felt quite right, you know?
The greatest gift that this family gave me to me was acceptance in my desire to be a musician. In all the world there is nothing else like Cuban music to me – the love, the joy, the pain, and the sadness. Cuban rhythms are strong – like their coffee, and Cubans can play music for hours, singing songs until forever. Sunday afternoons usually meant a party at someone’s house, and La Familia Menendez, my adopted family, would always go – with me and their instruments in tow. They would bring lots of percussion instruments with them so everyone in the party could get a chance to play along. These parties are how I learned the intricate Cuban clave rhythm. I hadn’t really started playing guitar then, so I cut my musical teeth on the Cuban clave with my musical family. And their belief in my talents fueled my own confidence.
I grooved so hard tonight, like a woman with six months to live, slowly realizing that I haven’t listened to live Cuban music since I parted ways with the gifted son of La Familia Menendez. That’s a long time.
I drank Spanish tempranillo wine, and banged the Cuban clave rhythm (never to be mistaken for the Puerto Rican clave rhythm) on my little table, and I felt utter joy. I listened to the older men in the audience croon along with the band, and in this tiny club, I could almost pretend that I was at one of those Sunday parties, singing “Solomenta Una Vez” with the crowd.
You probably wouldn’t detect any Latin flavor in my songs, but tonight I had the wild thought that without the Cuban clave, I may have never released my Supernova CD. But Latin music resides in my musician’s DNA, and I’ll always be grateful for this family who raised me as their own.
By the way, the name of tonight’s tiny place is In Vino Veritas, which I’m probably mistranslating as “In wine, there’s truth”. And I am feeling a lot of truth at this moment.
Have I finished transcribing my interview with Dr. Vasant Dhar about music blog chatter yet? Of course not! But in the meantime, to get my new blog up and running, I’m going to start checking out other music blogs. Time to make friends, you know?
The music blogosphere is wide, deep, and varying, and it’s going to be cool to share with you the music blogs that indie artists need to know about. Ever since Dr. Dhar’s research paper started making a buzz, a lot of people have been talking about what his research means to indie music.
Let’s go deeper, shall we?
I wasn’t planning on writing about the Elliot Spitzer sex scandal. Really. Writing about someone’s fall from grace is not my forte.
But the subject of the scandal caused by the soon-to-be-former New York governor is causing the call girl’s MP3s to sell like hotcakes on her MySpace page, now that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax.
Now I’m not recommending that you start a scandal in order to sell your CDs and MP3s, but as writing about indie music promotion is my forte, it’s my job as “The DIY Diva” to provide
“The DIY Diva” Case Study: Ashley Alexandra Dupré
Fact: Elliot Spitzer, Governor of the American state of New York was shown to have solicited sex with a 22 year old call girl, known as “Kristen”.
Fact: “Kristen”, also known as Ashley Alexandra Dupré, is an aspiring singer with songs available for purchase on the internet.
Fact: After the scandal hit, Ashley’s Myspace page has 5 million visitors and growing, and her MP3s have been selling like hotcakes.
Fact: JJ, a disc jockey for New York City’s Z100, the most widely listened to radio station in the U.S., and one of the most influential in pop music, played her song “What We Want” on Thursday.
Z100 quote: “Z100 is all about playing what’s hot, and we can’t think of anything hotter than a song from the woman at the center of a scandal that took down the governor of New York,” says Tom Poleman, SVP of Programming for Z100 New York. “On top of that, it’s a surprisingly good song. Looks like she may have a new career; this time in music.”
[Editorial comment: And why is her music considered “surprisingly good? Is the assumption being made that a woman who sells sex couldn’t possibly be a good musician too? Oh please!!! What is that all about???]
Do you understand now why keeping your rights and not selling out to a traditional record label can be a good thing? The quality of her music doesn’t even come into play here. She’s an unsigned artist, therefore she doesn’t have to share much of her royalties.
If she has a digital distribution deal with a company like CD Baby, 91% of each sale would be hers to keep. If she sells her MP3s directly from her website, she keeps 100% of her royalties. If a million people buy her “What We Want” MP3 for 98 cents simply out of curiousity, Ms. Dupré’s dream of a career in music will quickly take hold.
Of course, she’ll get book deal offers, as well as the standard Playboy nude centerfold offers, but as far as music deals are concerned, she’s well-positioned (ahem) to get those too. The call girl formerly known as “Kristen” could leverage this scandal into a big win. She’s already added a new MP3 called “Move Ya Body” to her MP3 music site, so she’s taking advantage of her newfound notoreity.
I have to add that there’s no guarantee for longevity for her success, and she’d be a fool not to milk this moment. Especially as the press is camping outside her apartment anyway. But life is short, and you never know when opportunities like these will come again.
I do feel bad, however, for Elliot Spitzer and his family, who must be going through an awful time right now. He has a lot to lose, but Ashley Dupre has much to gain.
I just received the 2008 calendar from the Miami poet MC Rebecca “Butterfly” Vaughns, and I love it. She’s a prolific writer and slam poet, and she’s also a phenomenal self-promoter.
Butterfly has published volumes of poetry, and performance CDs, and for the past few years, she has also organized tribute events for the artists that have inspired her, such as Aaliyah and Janet Jackson. Anyone who thinks that poets are quiet people that live in attics would be proven quite wrong! She came to New York for the first time to visit Aaliyah’s grave in Ferncliff, NY in 2002 for the first anniversary of the singer’s death . She spent the rest of her time here performing her spirited poetry all over NYC. Since then, her NYC fan base has grown, and she visits often.
Of course I have to mention that she’s my cousin, which is interesting for two particular reasons: 1) Rebecca and I are the only creative performers of our family, and 2) our grandmothers are actually first cousins. When trying to explain, we skip the family tree, and just say we’re related. Good enough for me!
If you want to check out her fan website (yes, she has fans to do this for her!) check her out here!
It’s official: Madonna is a Living Legend!
Along with John Mellencamp, The Ventures, Leonard Cohen and The Dave Clark Five, The Material Girl was inducted into this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
A panel of 600 industry figures selected the five acts to be inducted at the annual ceremony, to be held March 10 in New York. To be eligible, artists must have issued a first single or album at least 25 years before nomination.
“The 2008 inductees are trailblazers — all unique and influential in their genres,” Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation President and CEO Joel Peresman said in a statement. “From poetry to pop, these five acts demonstrate the rich diversity of rock and roll itself.”
Of course, like most things having to do with Madonna, her nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is controversial.
“Madonna in the ROCK ‘N’ ROLL Hall of Fame? That’s like inducting Dorothy Hamill into the Hockey Hall of Fame.”
“What a crock!! Inducting Madonna in the ROCK n ROLL Hall of Fame is like inducting Celine Dion in the Rap Hall of Fame or Michael Jackson in the Opera Hall of Fame. Not a single one of her songs can remotely be classified as Rock n Roll. Including a poser like Madonna in the Rock n Roll Hall while excluding true legendary rock artists like Deep Purple and Alice Cooper is a travesty.”
“Madonna is not rock and roll. It’s as simple as that. Apparently the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame doesn’t have a lot to do with Rock and Roll. Madonna is bubblegum at best. There are so many other bands that deserve to be inducted.”
The fact that Madonna was chosen on her first year of eligibility, while artists like Kiss, Rush, and Iggy Pop still wait in the wings for their turn has many rock fans up in arms.
Madonna also has her supporters. Brian Klein, the Kalamazoo, MI fan who helped build Madonna Fest, a global fan convention, makes a point in her favor.
“Madonna put in her time: She started as a nobody with a garage band, played the club scene in New York, got noticed, and evolved into the queen of pop icon,” he says. And her antiestablishment credentials are impeccable, Klein points out: “She’s the only person I know of who walked off David Letterman after telling him off.”
And what is Rock and Roll these days anyway? Who else wants to chime in with their opinion on Madonna’s induction?
By now, you’ve probably heard of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, a performance of monologues that celebrate the precious pussy (okay, you can use vajayjay if you prefer)!
This year, I’ve become involved with another performance of Eve Ensler essays entitled,
A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer: Writings To Stop Violence Against Women and Girls, which will be performed in various places around the world, from North Carolina to Israel. New York City will have its performance on March 26th at the Broad Street Ballroom, I am very excited to be a fundraiser for this groundbreaking event in NYC, also known as V-Day. Tickets are $85 in advance and $100 at the door.
Says the V-Day announcement: “V-Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM) and sexual slavery.”
This V-Day event will benefit Circle of Health International (COHI), a non-profit organization whose mission is “to build the capacity of women’s health care professionals in crisis settings”, and they do that by sending nurses, midwives, and other medical professionals to areas around the globe where women are affected by poverty, war, natural disasters, occupation, and gender-based violence.
After Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, it was revealed that many women suffered physical violence and rape while living in the New Orleans Superdome when it became a hurricane shelter. So COHI also opened a center in New Orleans to help the women there.
Ironically, on April 12th 2008, the New Orleans Superdome will become Superlove, to host “V-Day to the Tenth”, the 10th anniversary of V-Day. Celebrities such as Salma Hayek, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Jessica Alba, Glenn Close, Ali Larter, Julia Stiles, Sally Field, Marisa Tomei, Rosario Dawson, Kerry Washington, Didi Conn, Christine Lahti, Calpernia Addams, and musicians Faith Hill, Jennifer Hudson, Common, Eve, and Charmaine Neville will share their talents and energies to celebrate V-Day’s 10th Anniversary, as well as clean up the Superdome’s karma. For more info on V-Day to the Tenth check out http://v10.vday.org/.
For more info on V-Day event in NYC on March 26th, 2008, visit the event site here.
I haven’t seen this week’s rerun of Making the Band 4 yet, but the scene in which the girls from Danity Kane sing solo for the vocal coach is still running through my mind. The girls are so present in their vocal expression, and it reminded me of how far I’ve come in my own musical journey.
When I first decided that I wanted to be a singer, I kept it to myself – don’t ask me why. When friends (and strangers) learned that I sang, they would usually ask me to sing something on the spot. I’d hem and haw to try to get out of it, but I’d finally give in if it was dark outside, and they allowed me to turn the lights off – and sing in the bathroom.
Even after I first started singing on stage, singing to one person a capella was also difficult. Even if I was singing to describe a song I’d heard on the radio, I used this funny high-pitched voice which drove my boyfriend at the time crazy. He was an accomplished musician, and I felt very self-conscious singing around him.
Finally, the week before I moved to New York from Miami (with the accomplished musician boyfriend), I decided to practice introducing myself as a singer. I figured that most of the people I’d be meeting in NYC would be strangers, so I should get used to calling myself a singer. By the way, if you’ve ever moved to another city, it’s amazing how many new people you meet right before you leave, so I definitely got lots of practice.
So during this week, I meet a guy in Miami and tell him I’m a singer. He says, “That’s great. Show me what you got!” And I immediately went back to my hemming and hawing mode. I didn’t get too far before he finally said something I’ll never forget: “Singers sing! If you want to be a singer, you have to be able to sing at the drop of a dime, with no hesitation.” And as much as that message stung at the time, I knew he was right. So I sang for him – right there on the sidewalk, in broad daylight. And since that day 13 years ago, I sing for anyone who wants to hear, no hesitation. And I also sing for myself, around the house, in the subway, and of course, on stage. Now I won’t shut up! And this is how I finally found my voice.
Any other singers out there want to chime in on your journey to free vocal expression??
Okay, so I did watch Making the Band again, and one of the various storylines that caught my attention this time was Danity Kane’s Dawn dealing with her emotions. Girlfriend has a voice, and she also has a story. She’s from New Orleans, and was displaced by Hurricane Katrina. She has a painful past, but doesn’t like to talk about it.
When the vocal coach asked to hear each of the girls sing, Dawn had mad skills. The vocal coach still wanted more emotion from her, and told her that singing had to be about the listeners, not just what she wanted to give them. As Dawn got connected more with her emotions, tears started to fall down her face. The vocal coach demanded that she sing through her tears, although I’m not totally sure if he wanted to teach her how to get past her tears while she was singing, or if he just wanted more emotion from her.
If anybody saw this episode and has some insight, please let me know. I’m gonna have to watch this again…
In sorta unrelated knews, I did propose to someone this week, totally forgetting about this long held belief on women proposing on leap year. Coincidentally, another friend emailed the Leap Year wikipedia entry and I remembered my proposal the day before.
I’m one of those people who enjoys public speaking, and I’m a member of Toastmasters. One of my friends, Z, gave his 10th Speech the day before Valentine’s Day. It was titled L.O.V.E., and described various way that we humans love, romantic and familial. At one point, he even gave a mock proposal to a female audience member. Got down on one knee, even.
I wasn’t able to attend this particular meeting, but I saw the video archive this week. I was so moved by his speech that I emailed him immediately, “I L.O.V.E.d your speech. Marry Me!”
He later emailed me back, “Glad you liked it. Where’s my ring?”
Um, I was only joking. But it is Leap Year after all. Does that mean I have to take him to Tiffany’s? 😉
And for those of you waiting with baited breath, the woman who gave her man a Leap Year Proposal was victorious! Her man said yes, and they appeared on the ‘Today’ show to drink champagne with Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira.
I am in no rush to get married, but I’m still a romantic!