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November 17, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-11-17

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - 5

All's humanity
Rapper Brother Ali brings his body else ... and stay tied in to the family aspect," Ali
uplifting hip hop to the Blind Pig Now nearing the end of his Fresh Air tour, Ali has
spent the last few months on the road with label-
By SHARON JACOBS mates Toki Wright, Evidence and BK-One, so one
DailyArts Writer can imagine he's pretty keyed in to that "family
"It's really about showcasing or spotlighting Ali speaks in a thick, melodic tone that could
people's greatness in spite of every- easily have led him into preaching if the rap career
thing that's fucked up," says rap- hadn't taken off. But after releasing four LPs to
per Brother Ali of his music. When much acclaim from critics and audiences alike, Ali
Ali takes the stage at the Blind Pig At the is living the good life and isn't likely to turn it in any
tonight, concertgoers can expect to Blind Pig time soon.
hear rhymes evoking a basic sense of Tonight at Religion is one of two sticky issues for Ali, who
human triumph over adversity. 9:30 p.m. converted to Islam as a young man in Minnesota.
With songs that tackle tough Tickets $15 The other is race. Brother Ali has albinism - and in
issues like homelessness and drug a genre so heavily dominated by race relations, his
abuse, Brother Ali doesn't like the racial identity is always a focal point.
oft-used term "positive" in reference to his style. But "I've been touring professionally, full-time,
his ultimately hopeful message makes Ali one of the since 2002, and that's still in the first paragraph of
more uplifting messengers from the underground every article that's written about me," Ali points
rap world. out. "He's a Muslim and he's albino, Jesus Christ!
Ali's latest release Us explores themes of connec- ... There's obviously so much more to the story than
tion and shared humanity with stories from his own that."
life as well as those from people close to him. Ali isn't mad, but he does seem tired of the brou-
"If your mother has cancer, you don't have can- haha over his condition. And really, his unique back-
cer but you live with-that cancer too, 'cause you go ground is only important in its effect on the way he
through it with (her)," Ali explains regarding Us. "I sees the world. Ali has said that, growing up, he felt
was wondering if I could channel the stories of the more at home among non-whites. Perhaps his songs
people around me in that same way, and talk about are all-encompassing because of this - "The Travel-
my relationships with people in different situations, ers," for instance, comments on slavery's effects on
and hope that the listener feels connected to them everyone involved, black and white.
as well." "It's the way that I've always seen it, just by being
The subjects Brother Ali explores on Us run the close to both sides," Ali says of the track. "Everybody
gamut from annoying neighbors to sexual abuse, involved in a terrible crime like (slavery) is affect-
with time left over for some lines proving his "Bad ed... (and) we've never examined it in a comprehen-
Mufucker" status. sive way."
And his themes of shared experiences and com- That may be so, but Brother Ali's message-driven
munity persist outside the studio - Ali records on music delves into that conversation and many oth-
the Rhymesayers label along with the group Atmo- ers. His personal, spiritual vibe may not leave audi-
sphere, whose producer Ant collaborates in writing ences feeling "positive" per se. But it's hard not to
Ali's music. be impressed by the doctrine of human "greatness"
"(Of the Rhymesayers crew) I've seen the most - the amazing ability to survive and connect - that
success in the artists that really stay close to every- Ali preaches.
Inspiration: Devendra's perspective

A moment in thyme

his past weekend I went
to New York City for 36
hours for a museum stud-
ies class. While I was there I ate at
Lombardi's, the
"first pizzeria in
America," and
tried the white
pizza, which
was sauce-less,
dotted with
giant florettes 'WHITNEY
of ricotta and POW
drizzled with
garlic-infused olive oil. I ate soft
pine-nut-studded pignoli and tri-
colored, chocolate-lined rainbow
cookies at Ferrara, a patisserie
in Little Italy. I ate French toast-
flavored rice pudding from retro-
looking space-saucer-like bowls at
Rice to Riches, a rice pudding shop
on Spring Street.
And while the city itself could
be described in so many ways -
through buildings on the skyline,
Broadway musicals the Museum
Mile and endless stretches of side-
walk - I think food is one of the
most important elements of place
and experience. It's unsurprising
that Marcel Proust had one, then
two, then three bites of a but-
tery madeleine teacake, and was
immediately transported to a very
specific moment on a Sunday in
Combray, watching his aunt dip
the cake into her tea. It's simi-
larly unsurprising that the taste of
sticky rice or spaghetti can trans-
port you to-10 years ago when - a
few states away, two feet shorter
and 100 pounds lighter - you were
struggling to look over the coun-
tertop to peek at something sim-
mering on the stove.
I believe in the importance of
food as something more than the
experience of satiating one's stom-
ach, but as something that carefully
constructs our conceptions of self.
There's a reason whythere is still a
hefty allowance of articles devoted
to The New York Times's "Dining
and Wine" section. And there's a
reason why the artsy, literary New
Yorker makes room for articles like

Adam G
point, a
ing and
by Zaga
to be he
ated wi
it is cen
.smell of
fish ma:
crab sit
where 1
like the
tonese r
and the
fresh ba
cetta. A
and stor
are reit
slice ofI
and sou
which v
where t
toes an
raging I
nies tol
tracks a

iopnik's recent paean to turned translucent from soaking
oks. Food is a cultural touch up the oil on my fingers. Steamed
relevant mile marker for lobster with no butter reminds me
s, a thing that, while fleet- of Maine's seaside towns, overcast
transient in experience (a and gray, where I was cell phone-
ul lasts only so long), is still less and quickly speaking on pay
rthy enough to be critiqued telephones while worriedly check-
t and still intimate enough ing my pockets for extra quarters.
d sacred as a personal or We have a version of the Proust-
experience. ian madeleine we carry with us,
ne, New York is not associ- where even a Chicago deep-dish
th Times Square or haute pizza can bring about memories of
, but instead with home - last spring or a decade ago. Food
tered on my grandmother's brings about anecdotes and sto-
kitchen filled with the ries - it's a means with which we
f gas stoves and simmering express ourselves, a jumping-off
soups, on sour-smelling point for communicating what is
rkets where jittery frogs or important to us. And, while our
in tubs, waiting for their memories are multi-faceted, ethe-
ble demise, on Italian shops real things that are easily forgot-
0-pound hunks of hard, ten on the tips of tongues, in some
rinded cheese hang at the strange way, food can revive these
V. parts of ourselves, give voice to the
city is made of tastes for me, no-longer-existing five-year-old in
sweet, burnt edges of Can- us who loved macaroni and cheese
'oast pork tasting of umami or bring back the presence of a
thin, chewy crust of Lom- grandfather who has passed away.
pizza coated with cheese, In the delicacy of food and its
sil and thinly-sliced pan- subtle hints of herbs, meats and
ll of these foods are inti- spices lies something incredibly
connected with memories substantial. As Proust wrote in "In
ries where vivid, checkered Search of Lost Time": "After the
people are dead, after the things
are broken and scattered, taste and
ocations are smell alone ... bear unflinchingly,
in the tiny and almost impalpable
ined by food. drop of their essence, the vast
structure of recollection."
Food is important to the way
'ths and table conversations we view ourselves and the way
erated in my mind with a we view the places we inhabit and
pizza or a bowl of noodles have inhabited. Like keepsake
p. photographs, handwritten notes
opens up an entire and certain films, it reminds us of
ary of experience through things that exist now in memory
ye can communicate, alone, bringing back what has
hyme or garlic can conjure been forgotten or pushed to the
te moments. Roasted toma- back of our minds. Food tells us
d fresh pickled cucumbers stories, and through the memento
me of Kentucky and its of food, we tell ours - it is a means
heat and howI placed pen- through which we communicate,
be smashed on the railroad an element of identity we hold
fter a belly full of Sonic close to ourselves, just as much as
kes. Fried green tomatoes we hold loved ones close.

Daily Arts Writer
When n spoke WihfleeD6en-
dra Banhat, he
was in front ' of
a kitchen table Dweflda
in Los Angeles Banfhart
while Rodrigo
Amarante of At The Ark
Little Joy fame Tonight at8 p.m.
played guitar in Sold Out
the background.
Banhart was in the process of
getting ready to go on tour to pro-
mote his new album, What Will
We Be. He'll be playing at The Ark
tonight at 8 p.m.
"I'm not too shabby," Banhart
said in his phone interview. "I'm
not as happy as a clam, but I can't
To mentally prepare himself, he
recites poetry.
"Let me quote a poem by Nanao
Sakaki. It's called 'Please,' " he
said. "'Sing a song, or laugh, or cry,
or go away.' "
"I've been just kind of repeat-
ing that poem over and over again
in my head. That's been really
helpful, it's been really fun," he
told me.
He lets me in on a secret.
"A piece of music trivid is that
the cover of (Little Joy's) record,
with the woman falling into the
water - that's my mother. I'm
happy to tell you that little secret."
Devendra Banhart has always
seemed like he's been full of
secrets. He talks in riddles and
half-truths. Sometimes, it's dif-
ficult to tell whether or not he's
Sometimes, however, it's
patently obvious that he's not.
"I also have a project with Fab
(Fabrizio Moretti, of The Strokes
and Little Joy) where we just make
extreme colognes," he says in all
earnestness. "The first one we're
making is called 'Ninja Smell."'
Another, more likely collabora-
tion is "Megapuss," Banhart's proj-
ect with Moretti and Greg Rogove.
"We have songs that don't fit
into each other's respective bands,
and the last project, which was
called 'Mayor Prints,' was really
kind of an experiment and kind
of a big embarrassment," Banhart
said. "This time we're trying to
make songs that aren't trying to
be jokes. It's nice to have a serious
Banhart has a predilection
for going off on wild, unbeliev-
able tangents. He says he collects
ranch dressing from all over the
world, and claims to wantto direct
a documentary about old people
in cocoons, in swimming pools -
he regrets that he can't, because
someone else came up with it first.
He seems extremely eager to talk
about music, so long as it's not his
"I just want to make mum

music," he said off-handedly.
"Mums are our demographic, you
Banhart, who's been tpuring
and recording regularly since
2002, says that the moms of the
world also get to decide how long
he'll record music and go ontour.
He shows clear disdain for the
"freak-folk" label he's been tagged
"Call it star revival, call it funky
junk ... just don't use that nomen-
clature," Banhart said. "I don't
think anyone that's ever been
called that has called themselves
Banhart's current playlist is
extensive. He rattles off a list of
Star revival and.
funky junk.
artists that you might expect -
Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear,
Fleet Foxes - and then he tosses
in some more unexpected names,
just for good measure.
"I like The-Dream and Mariah

Carey a lot," he claimed. "I fuck-
ing loooove T-Pain." He drew out
"love" so that it sounded like a ten-
syllable word.
He seemed uneasy about talk-,
ing about his own work. His voice
quieted, and for once, he wasn't
the flippant, creative. jokester he
had been throughout the entire
"I still haven't figured out how
to write music. I'm still trying to
figure out how to tune a guitar.
Working on that one octave. Work-
ing on that scale until it turns into
a mode," he said.
"I don't really know what I'm
doing, and I don't really know how
that stuff happens," he added. "It's
just very painful whatever it is."
"It's just very painful," he said
As a final question, I asked him
what his idea of the perfect date
would be.
His voice shifted, brightening,
and suddenly he played the role of
the effervescent hooligan again.
"Two people, one fat suit, eight
horse tranquilizers and 'Twister.'
Of course."
Of course.

me of Tennessee and the
the-wall, cement-floored
ant that served fried
with cocktail napkins that

Pow is recording a song called
"Ode to Soy." To hear the demo,
e-mail her at poww@umich.edu.

University of Michigan's
Selection of REALTY
Units Avaiable forImmediate Occupancy
Off -Cam pus Now Leasing for 2010-2011
Houses up to14 bedrooms
gous 6le Church St 7341 955-9200


Tuesday, November 17, 2009
8:00 pm
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