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January 18th, 2006 Mark Baumgarten, Jason Simms, Casey Jarman | Music Stories
 

Blotter, Q&A, Preview

     
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Blotter

SXSW NAMES RELEASED, BERBATI'S DRAMA INCREASED

The organizers of South by Southwest, the annual Austin, Texas, music festival that everyone thinks is going to be their big break, is beginning to roll out names of invited bands, and Portland, so far, has a decent showing. The list on the SXSW website currently includes the Clorox Girls, Derby, Richmond Fontaine, the Gossip, Miss Murgatroid and Petra Haden, the Nice Boys, the Standard, the Village Green and Viva Voce. Portland's Arena Rock Recording Company is also reportedly hosting a showcase at the March 14-19 festival, which will include Talkdemonic, the Kingdom and Swords. Surely, there is more to come. >> Management at Berbati's Pan, which recently laid off booker Chantelle Hylton, has reportedly hired one of its security personnel to run booking at the club. How this will change the club is unclear, but Hylton, who currently books Towne Lounge and runs Blackbird Presents, had this to say about the situation: "The entire music-booking format at Berbati's Pan probably needed to change for the club to find its place among the zillions of other music venues in Portland. Perhaps a more successful formula would include a focus on developing the downtown dance-party vibe as a staple."

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Obo Addy Jan 20 and 22

Father of World Beat joins the septuagenarian club.

[WORLD BEAT] When he came to Portland in the 1970s, drummer Obo Addy had already changed the world of music as one of the first artists to fuse traditional African folk music to Western pop, making him one of this city's greatest musical transplants. Although he might be better known to some here for a trademark dispute with his nephew (see "Addy vs. Addy", WW, Feb. 26, 2003) and as an instructor at Lewis & Clark College, the Ghana-born drummer is known around the world for his musicianship. Addy, who celebrates his 70th birthday this weekend, spoke to WW by phone from South Carolina, where he was giving a workshop and seeing one of his symphonic compositions performed. JASON SIMMS.

WW: You were declared a master drummer at age 6. Do you remember much about learning how to drum?

Obo Addy: In my society, we are taught by watching and listening. They don't sit you down to teach you things, and we don't very much like questions. That's the way I teach. I tell everybody we're going to watch and listen, that we're not going to write things down. When you learn that way, you don't forget it. When you learn from writing and things like that, then anytime you want it, you have to look at the paper before you remember.

Your Homowo festival had an audience in Portland, but some people say the city lacks diversity. What do you think?

The people who are at the festival become a little more diverse because they enjoy something from another country. In Portland, we have people who are interested in things from other countries, but we could have more of them.

Are there fewer of them here than other cities?

Compared to other cities, I think [the number of people interested in other cultures in] Portland is low. But I like the challenge, and I like to be in a medium-size city, to start there and spread it to other states. The people in Portland are warm.

Have the court-ordered quotation marks around your nephew Obuama's nickname, OB, helped with the trademark dispute?

It's helped the confusion a lot. I don't see misprints in the paper anymore. He uses his group's name, I&I, more than OB.

What can we expect at your 70th birthday show?

There are going to be some surprises for me; they don't want to tell me everyone who's going to play. The performers I know are going to be there will be kids from the jazz group at the Beaverton School of Art, the three singers I use in my band [Kukrudu], Janice Scroggins and Mark Steele on keyboards, Portland Taiko, and my traditional group, Okropong.

Obo Addy's 70th birthday: Friday, Jan. 20, at Portland State University's Lincoln Hall. 7:30 pm. $15-$18. Addy also performs at 1 and 3 pm Sunday, Jan. 22, at the Portland Children's Museum. $6-$7 museum admission. All ages.

Lightheaded Tuesday Jan 24

Portland hip-hop hopes keep the streak alive while breaking into a newer school.

[HIP-HOP] Lightheaded's debut album, Pure Thoughts, set the bar pretty high for the group's sophomore release, Wrong Way. The debut, released in 2003, was filled with old-school hooks and clap-along choruses, each of the group's three emcees spitting on-point lyrics that complemented Canadian producer Muneshine's beats (instead of outshining them) to create a cohesive, spiritual and danceable work. All this before DJ, producer, emcee and Lightheaded member Ohmega Watts raised the stakes yet again with his already classic, soul-searching 2005 solo release, The Find.

Wrong Way keeps the winning streak alive, incorporating the best elements of the two previous albums with a wider array of more complex beats and bright samples that break Lightheaded out of strictly old-school-worship territory. While the group's influences are still reasonably transparent, they have moved from the late '70s and '80s squarely into the '90s and Love Movement-era Tribe Called Quest. You can hear it on the opener, "Orientation," from the crackling, inchworm beat to the lyrics: "Since you came on in/ welcome, we're about to begin" sounds an awful lot like Q-Tip's gentle call to "Come on, everybody, let's start" to me.

On "Timeless," the album's first single, the group snaps right back into Jurassic 5 mode, enticing listeners to "Clap your hands everybody/ everybody just clap your hands." But before that played-out club convention has a chance to wear on the nerves, Othello brings some heat and Braille rolls a mission statement off his tongue, which is on spin-cycle throughout the album. Watts subtly brings it back to the beat, his voice acting as an anchor that keeps the crew from getting overexcited and shooting out of orbit.

Introspective songs like "Short Stories" and "Speak Your Peace" reveal that Lightheaded is still a Christian rap group, but also that it transcends that loaded genre tag with music that avoids evangelism and focuses instead on storytelling, which is becoming a lost art in the larger rap game.

If there is a weakness in the group's music, it's that, as emotionally open as the members are, they seems incapable of expressing anger. A world in turmoil and a born-again president committing atrocities around the globe and turning a blind-eye to suffering in his own country don't warrant one pissed-off Lightheaded track? The answer is on "Unconditionally," where the group states, "There's so much destruction/ and so much corruption/ proving our ground/ trying not to be sucked in" before asking, "Do you love life unconditionally?" Can't say that I do, but that new Lightheaded album is the shit. CASEY JARMAN. Lightheaded plays with Giant Panda and Luminous Fog at the Doug Fir. 9 pm. $5. 21+.


Obo Addy's 70th birthday: Friday, Jan. 20, at Portland State University's Lincoln Hall. 7:30 pm. $15-$18. Addy also performs at 1 and 3 pm Sunday, Jan. 22, at the Portland Children's Museum. $6-$7 museum admission. All ages.

Lightheaded plays with Giant Panda and Luminous Fog at the Doug Fir. 9 pm. $5. 21+.

 
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