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October 02, 1989 - Image 9

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-10-02

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i

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Monday, October 2, 1989

Page 9

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State Street poets
Two writers moonlight as booksellers

INA

Mahal cooks
up melange.
Taj Mahal wailed, stomped,
pounded, and picked his way through
two sold out solo sets Friday night
at The Ark, serving up a steamy
Idose of homegrown country blues
and funky boogie-woogie the way
only Mahal can do it.
Sporting long black trousers
tucked into steel-toed boots, a white
t-shirt which read "I believe there is
a way for us to live in harmony,"
and a white cowboy fedora, Mahal
took the stage at 8:30 p.m., sitting
down at the piano to hammer out
"Big Leg Women" and setting the
boogie-down pace for the rest of the
evening. Gyrating as much as a per-
son can on a piano bench, he strode
right into "Circle Round the Sun,"
invoking guttural call-and-response
howls and yowls from the audience.
"Bourgeois Blues" closed out the
keyboard set ("Let me tell you peo-
ple this is the land of the free/ I ain't
gonna be pushed around by no bour-
geoisie"), and Mahal donned his hol-
low-body electric guitar for a reggae
version of "Stagger Lee," punctuat-
ing it with some country solo licks
in the middle.
Relishing in a rich musical stew
'of blues, folk, country, and Carib-
bean styles (and various hybrids of
,each!) has long been Taj Mahal's
,passion, and Friday's show delivered
:up a savory musical mix. A soft,
warm jazz-chord interlude led into
the up-tempo shuffle "Cakewalk Into
Town," a crowd favorite during
which Mahal coaxed the audience
into some imprecise, but fun,
whistling. This was followed by a
:blue sky, Carolina-style, country
;picking instrumental penned by Liz
Cotten ("A woman 60 years my se-

nior," Mahal said as he introduced
the tune). "Come on in my Kitchen"
and Howlin' Wolf's "Sittin' on Top
of the World" shifted things back to
the blues and Mahal called upon the
congregation once more to help out
in "Light Rain Blues." At one point
in the song he warned, "You're
gonna have to see your chiropractor
tomorrow if you let this music go
through you without movin'."
Finishing with "Ringin' Out
That Bell," an a cappella Baptist-
style stomp, Mahal left the crowd
spiritually charged and cheering for
more. He obliged with what is prob-
ably the only known blues tune
about the hazards of chaperoning
teenagers: "They Did the Boogie
Real Slow With the Blue Lights
Way Down Low."
Hoisting his guitar in a gesture
of thanks, he left the stage for the
second time to a standing ovation
from the packed house.
And anybody who had an ap-
pointment with their chiropractor
went promptly home to cancel.
-Dave Wolf
Indian dance
portrays myths
Real art is expression; it can rep-
resent emotions, movements, mes-
sages or stories. One art form that
combines all of these representations
is Bharatanatyam, the classical dance
of India. Performed Saturday night at
Rackham Auditorium by accom-
plished dancer Hema Rajagopalan,
this dance expressed not only the
Indian culture but the true meaning
of artistic ability.
An artist is a unique type of per-
son just as Bharatanatyam is a
unique type of dance. Together, they
communicate many ideas to the au-
dience. This particular dance, which

originated in South India in the sec-
ond century B.C., combines various
hand gestures, rhythmic feet move-
ments, steady poses and picturesque
facial expressions. It evolved "to
uplift spiritual consciousness and to
absorb the scriptures because the
masses were turning away from reli-
gion," said Rajagopalan after per-
forming a short introductory piece.
This classical dance turned into a vi-
sually artistic medium to inform the
public of Indian mythology and cul-
ture.
Dressed in traditional Indian cos-
tume, Rajagopalan danced five differ-
ent pieces for over two hours. On a
bare stage with the live accompani-
ment of a vocalist singing in the
Tamil and Sanskrit languages, a
tabla player, a hand cymbalist, and a
flutist, she brought alive ancient re-
ligious myths by explaining each
piece before presenting it.
Rajagopalan demonstrated how facial
expression could change from rage to
ecstasy and how hand gestures could
change from a budding lotus to a
man-eating crocodile. Without these
explanations, some of the audience
wouldn't have understood the dance
due to the absence of programs.
Having made dance a part of her
life at the age of six in Madras.
IndiaaRajagopalan tours every year
in the U.S. and Canada, performs
solo and dance dramas, and holds
workshops and lecture demonstra-
tions for a variety of people. She has
been dancing for 30 years and teaches
her own academy of over 100 stu-
dents in her hometown, Chicago. To
her, dance contains several emotions;
it is up to the individual artist to
bring them out throughout the piece.
"The main thing is to communicate
to the audience," said Rajagopalan.
See REVIEWS, page 10

BY JAY PINKA
W HEN you walk down State Street today, past
Borders and Shaman Drum bookstores, you'll very
likely saunter past two poets taking a cigarette break.
Stephen Leggett and Keith Taylor are as local as po-
etry can get. Tonight, instead of selling the books of
others, the pair will read from their own at Guild
House.
Borders employee Leggett grew up in Manistee,
Michigan. His "connection to... snow, hawks, rivers...
elemental things," shows in "The Ribbon" in his
"chap book," The Form It Takes. The poem is an in-
timate, narrative set of snapshots of Leggett's experi-
ence of being snowbound with his two-year old son.
Taylor, his long-time friend, agrees that it accurately
represents Leggett's children as "the emotional center"
of his life. "They figure prominently in. my writing,"
affirmed Leggett.
Leggett, who first "fell in love with poetry" when
reading The Black Forest by Gary Snyder, for many
years lived in a cabin in a national forest. He views
this isolation as a particularly fruitful time for his po-
etry. He then worked as a reporter, covering steamy
events like "county commisioners meetings." He en-
joys seeing his writing, now strictly creative, in the
"Newsletter," which circulates various works-in-
progress.
Leggett's works generally run short. His sense of
revision is "more realizing that something doesn't be-
long in a poem than adding to it." The poet, who
wants to write longer poems, is now trying to "stop

the poem, wait a day... and add another."
Keith Taylor's maternal grandparents would be
"Guilty at The Rapture," of Learning To Dance, one
of his earlier books which sports a picture of them on
the cover. His grandmother, a Protestant saint, disap-
proved of "smoking, going to the movies, or dancing."
So Taylor, in "Guilty," is ever: "sucking hard on a
mint to smother the newspaper cigarette... I.../
dodge...machines abandoned by vanished Christians]
glorified while driving back from work/ after centuries
of trial."
Taylor, who grew up in Northern Canada, finds
himself drawn to images of winter in his poetry, re
vealed in the "White Pine Stumps" and "Snowbound"
of his less family-oriented book Weather Report, pub-
lished in 1985. The poet's "reaction to the bombing of
Libya is a central thesis" in this work.
You might discover Taylor, who manages Shaman
Drum's trade book section, writing on his lunch hour
at the Continental Restaurant. Or more likely, he'll be
at home in his study, where he has "one of the best
private libraries I know of." Taylor often refers to his
favorites, Charles Baudelaire, William Carlos
Williams, and "little-known" Swiss author Robert''
Walser, for inspiration.
Leggett predicted both writers/booksellers' futures
in poetry:
"Neither Keith nor I will quit writing unless some-
thing physical happens to us."
KEITH TAYLOR and STEPHEN LEGGETT will read
from their works tonight at 8:30 p.m at Guild House,
802 Monroe.

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