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March 13, 1991 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-03-13

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_____A_ _ _ RTS
* .The Michigan Daily Wednesday, March 13, 1991

Page 5

The lion of Soweto


':' by Peter Shapiro

NI ost African music sounds like
the reclamation of the Grateful Dead
myth by people who understand the
concept of the groove and to whom
the tie-dye is just another decorative
pattern, not a badge of altered-con-
sciousness hipness. Mbaqanga from
South Africa, on the other hand, is
the revenge of Memphis soul on a
generation that has turned Otis Red-
. ding into Jeffery Osborne.
, :If mbaqanga is the vindication of
Stax/Volt, then the group that in-
{vented it, Mahlathini and the Ma-
hotella Queens, is the second com-
ing of Clarence "Frogman" Henry
surrounded by En Vogue's grandpar-
ents and Chic's evil twin.
Mahlathini and the Mahotella
Queens and their backing band, the
phenomenal Makgona Tshole Band,
play an unpronounceable strain of
}mbaqanga called mgqashiyo - "the
indestructible beat."
Mahlathini's music is distin-
guished by his surreal voice. His
thunderous growl sounds like a
mountain goat yelling its territorial
claim across a vast alpine landscape.
Mahlathini's "groan" is so strong
and powerful that, as guitarist Marks
Mankwane relates, people would
stop dead in their tracks to listen to
what he said. Perhaps part of his au-
thority (Mankwane said, "People be-
0 lieve in whatever Mahlathini says")
comes from the association of his
basso profondo with masculinity.
The roar of The Lion of Soweto, or
Indoda Mahlathini ("Mahlathini the
man"), as he has been variously
known, resonates with a special
force in a traditional patriarchal soci-
But the hegemony of this patri-
archy doesn't go unquestioned. The
soaring gospel harmonies of the
Mahotella Queens not only provide a
gorgeous sonic foil for Mahlathini's
very unpretty voice, but engage in a
teasing song-and-dance routine with
the male fronting the band. While
this kind of interchange seems to
mirror the plight of African women
in a male-dominated society, it is
significant to note that mbaqanga is
the only music from sub-Saharan
Africa that features male and female
voices singing together.
This kind of unification is charac-
teristic of mbaqanga. As its name
'implies, mbaqanga (a dumpling or

Celebrating traditional Zulu culture with their costumes and their music,
Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens play the indestructible beat, even
under the forces of apartheid.

stew) is a combination of various,
sometimes contradicting, elements.
These elements are not just the usual
fusion of traditional African music
with Western styles, but a cultural
mixture of the different ethnic
groups that make up South Africa's
indigenous population.
After the laws of the apartheid
system started to separate ,these
ethnic groups into specific and
distinct "homelands," Mankwane
said it was necessary to "connect the
nine different Black ethnic groups
.... We are all Blacks, we used to
live together, we have to
communicate, we do it through mu-
sic." Whereas much African music
seeks to strengthen ties within a
specific ethnic group (Nigerian juju,
for example), mbaqanga "takes a tra-
ditional Zulu song and makes it un-
derstandable to Sothos."
This is achieved not only by
singing in various languages and
through lyrics conceived of as broad

parables extolling the virtues of the
traditional way of life as compared to
the evils of the apartheid-constructed
cities, but through the uncompro-
mising groove of the music itself.,
As Mankwane said, "Music these
days without a beat doesn't mean
anything." The indestructible beat is
built around Joseph Makwela's
rough and tumble bass lines that re-
semble the blistering runs of James
Cammack or Robert Gordon, the
Secretary of Entertainment, and the
ringing riff-work of Marks
Mankwane. Combine this with
rhythms that vaguely approach 4/4
and West Nkosi's chirping horn fills
descended from penny whistle kwela,
and the hooks reach out from every
possible nook and cranny.
HOTELLA QUEENS will test the
sonic capabilities of The Ark
tonight at 7:30 p.m and 10:00 p.m.
Tickets are $16.50.

Story of O, vol. 1
by Guido Crepax
The original Story of 0 was a
novel published in France in 1954,
immediately earning sideways
glances and outright accusations of
obscenity for its detailed descriptions
of a woman's sexual enslavement.
The novel is pretty hardcore; what
makes it more than well-written
smut is the fact that its female au-
thor uses the S&M fantasy to ex-
plore feminine sexual psychology.
Which brings us to Guido
Crepax, a European graphic artist
and author of several of his own
"naughty" comics who has done a
graphic adaptation of the novel. The
indicia is reticent, but it would seem
that Crepax drew his 0 in 1973,
waiting until now to publish it.
The art is visibly early work by
Crepax: occasionally sketchy and
uneven, not really innovative in exe-
cution. From a European perspec-
tive, this is nothing more than a
fairly decent bit of hardcore cheese-
cake. But in America, land of the
free & home of the artistically de-
prived, this is pretty heavy stuff.
This adaptation shows us the scenes
of sodomy, bestiality, and creative
uses of dildos that pack the novel,
and lots of other stuff that makes
your average Seka flick look pretty
(Ah, but is it Art?)
Well, not really. To avoid turn-
ing the adaptation into a turgid mass
of text, Crepax left out the sections
of involved introspection of the orig-
inal, leaving only the sex pictures.
And even as pornography it is infe-
rior to the original; Crepax's depic-
tions fall short of Reage's impas-
sioned descriptions, though unimag-
inative readers may appreciate the
renderings of some of the more
complex activities. Reage's novel is
high eroticism; Crepax's adaptation
is just pornographic.
This "translation" points up the
inherent folly of converting across
mediums: the folding, spindling, and
mutilating of texts serves only to
speed the commodification of art.
When the physical shape of the work
is remolded, the work's aesthetic
continuity is sacrificed for expedi-
ency and ease of conversion to a
more "popular" medium (often film,
but in this case graphic narrative).
So other than its advantage in show-
ing in line drawing what is difficult
to find in photograph, this work
doesn't have a whole lot going for
it, and for $11 you might as well
pick up a stack of real pornography.
That stuff's not art, but at least it
doesn't pretend to be.
- Evan M. Corcoran
and Antonio Roque
The Cosmic Wisdom of
Joe Bob Briggs
by Joe Bob Briggs
Random House
There aren't many newspaper
columnists alive today that I really
look up to. In fact, the only candi-
date that immediately leaps to mind
is Joe Bob Briggs. As the official
drive-in movie critic of Grapevine,
Texas, Joe Bob has gotten himself
into lots of trouble over the years
with small-minded, hyper-sensitive
Thought Nazis who lacked both
senses of humor and clear under-
standings of a literary tool known as

sarcasm (the highest form of com-
munication which, sadly, is no

longer picked up on unless immedi-
ately followed by a resounding cry of
Anyway, inflammatory (but sar-
castic) statements such as, "I am
violently opposed to the random mu-
tilation, torture, and head-drilling of
women unless it's necessary to the
plot ," got Joe Bob plenty of hate
mail, not only from the president of
the Dallas chapter of NOW (whom
Joe Bob publicly challenged to a
nude mud-wrestling match in order
to fairly settle their differences), but
also from racial and ethnic minori-
ties, homosexuals, animal rights ac-
tivists, Mothers Against Drunk
Driving, the National Cancer Soci-
ety, and the Dallas Cowboy Cheer-
In the "Crude, Insensitive Intro-
duction" to his brand-new collection
of essays,The Cosmic Wisdom of
Joe Bob Briggs ,Joe Bob writes, "No
- to answer all the letters at once
- I am not sorry." But nonetheless,
this book should finally (and thank-
fully) put an end to the unfounded
defamations of a man whose only
crime is being consistently obnox-
ious. He makes fun of liberal and
conservative stances alike in essays
ranging from "Yuppie Feti" (in
which he makes fun of pro-lifers) to
"Designer Hippies" (in which he
makes fun of the '60s).
In one of the best essays, "Letter
to the Ayatollah," which was written
shortly after the Salman Rushdie
death sentence was pronounced, Joe
Bob writes to the now-dead religious
fanatic, "I've been one of your
biggest enemies for years. In fact, if
I knew you were reading novels in
English, I could have put a whole
chapter or two in my last one, being
obnoxious about Mohammed, just

to make sure you would see it."
Joe Bob then goes on to bat
around some possible "sentences ...
that would be morally and reli-
giously and personally offensive" to
his Holiness, such as "The Jews are
always right".and "Wilt Chamberlain
was a better player than Kareem Ab-
Of course, Briggs is an equal
opportunity offender, making fun of
his "Babtist buddies" in "The Last
Temptation of the J-Man," a film
Joe Bob says to check out because
you get to watch "Mary Mag-
dalene make the sign of the triple-
jointed electric eel."
Joe Bob also addresses the heated
"sex-addiction" topic, which was
brought about by the great Rob
Lowe video scandal from a couple
summers back, in "You're Very At-
tractive, But I'll Have a Perrier":
"Every time you think you want to
have sex, just ask yourself ... Is this
the person I want to have sex with?
... If this is not the person I want to
have sex with, could J find some-
body else in the next hour? ... What
if my Mom was here watching me
have sex? What would she say? ...
Am I getting paid for this?"
Unfortunately, Joe Bob's humor
is undercut when he makes the fatal
error of actually trying to be some-
what serious this time around. His
views, often a bit lacking in the
depth department, are not really
worth reading without the Joe Bob
Briggs voice, which is what made
his film reviews so endearing. Defi-
nitely check out the excellent Joe
Bob Goes to the Drive-In; Cosmic
Wisdom, on the other hand, is only
a sporadically entertaining collec-
- Mark Binelli

v r

In the mood for jazz and film

by Andrew J. Cahn

Long before MTV creator Rob
Pittman's parents even thought of
having a child, before Kenny Log-
gins was being asked to sing movie
theme songs, and superceding even
further Prince's proof that musicians
cannot act, people used to flock to
the movie theaters not only to see
current films, but also to see their
favorite big bands performing in
them. In the first installment of
Eclipse Jazz's "Jazz in Film" lecture
series, Hazen Schumacher, the Uni-
versity Director of Broadcasting and
Media Resources, will be presenting
a study of the "Big Band Era on
Prof. Schumacher denotes the be-
ginning of the period as being Au-
gust 21, 1935, when Benny Good-
man and his band played at the
Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles.
From that point until the end of
World War II, Big Band music was
the most popular music form, not

only on radio stations and people's
turntable, but also in the movies of
the era., "Hollywood producers,"
Schumacher says, "were always hir-
ing an important big band to trump
up an audience for their films."
What differentiates today's film
music from that of 50 years ago is
that, while recently not much has
been generated in terms of important
original soundtrack music (with the
exception of Michael Sembello's
"Maniac" from Flashdance), in the
'30s and '40s the popular music
which was not part of a broadway
show came from the movies.
In many of these films, the bands
were "made to look silly," as Schu-
macher says, clowning around
throughout much of the pictures.
There are a few films, such as Hol-
lywood Hotel starring Benny Good-
man and Orchestra Wives, which
features Glenn Miller, that show the.-
band members not only as serious
performers, but also as integral parts
biz that once your hairline begins
to recede you have no choice but
to play songs destined for heavy
rotation on lite rock stations? If so,
someone please let me know
before Axl's tresses begin to fade
See RECORDS, Page 7

of the action. According to
Schumacher, Glenn Miller was "a
decent actor" and Goodman was no
Master Thespian, but the people
.went to see and hear the music, not
to watch the bandleaders act.
Prof. Schumacher will be show-
ing a number of slides of posters and
production stills from the movies of
the period, with plenty of big band
music playing throughout the night
to satisfy those who love the genre.
The highlight of the evening, how-
ever, should be the presentation of a
video featuring performances of
many of the era's best performers,
such as Count Baisie and Stan Ken-
ton, with no gimmicks whatsoever,
just a sampling of the great music
they played.
will be presented at 7:00 p.m.
tonight in the Michigan Union
Anderson room. Admission is free.

WRITE FOR ARTS!!! CALL 763-0379!!!!


* The Soul Cages
OK, so it's true you can't be 18
forever, or even 30. But is there
some unwritten rule in the music-

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