Priyanka Chopra: The International Star

 

Before entering Hollywood with Quantico and Baywatch, she was one of the mainstream Bollywood actresses that starred in many Indian films. Chopra had die-hard fans all over the South Asian countries.

After being crowned Miss World in 2000, she had already done over 40 movies in India. She is known for her performances in the movies Dostana, Salaam e Ishq, Bajirao Mastani, Mary Kom, and many more. However, her big break happened with her role in the 2008 Bollywood movie Fashion.

The plot renders a small town Indian girl who wanted to pursue her dreams of modeling but her parents had other ideas in store for her. She takes a risk by herself to be in the world she’s always wanted to be in. The story goes on to where she had to face many obstacles into becoming a model in what seemed to be a glamorous world.  However, it wasn’t what she really expected.

At the beginning of filming the movie, she wasn’t quite sure if she wanted to be a part of the film. Her directors helped build her confidence to continue shooting. As the movie premiered, viewers were noticing how her role immensely affected her career in a serendipitous way.  She’s had a tremendous influence on other female actresses in India. A few years ago she also debuted in her first songs, In My City and Exotic featuring Pitbull and Will.i.am.

Aside from film and music, she was the national UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. She is also associated with the Girl Up campaign. The campaign’s objective, no matter where a young girl lives, they should have the opportunity to become educated, healthy, and safe. Chopra wanted to build awareness for every child to have an education and skills to acquire jobs in different fields. Priyanka Chopra taught many girls around the world to follow their dreams through hard work and ambition.

DanceAfrica 2019

The DanceAfrica festival this year was absolutely fantastic as usual.  I expect nothing less from the largest festival dedicated to African Dance and music, returning for its 42nd year.  In case you don’t know, the festival takes place at BAM(Brooklyn Academy of Music).  I arrived just in time to get to my seat to watch each performance, one more amazing than the next.

Abdel Salaam | You Me NYCRwanda Reborn: The Remix is the title of this year’s DanceAfrica performance.  Under the leadership of artistic director Baba Abdel R. Salaam(pictured to the left, courtesy of BAM), this presentation acknowledges the 25th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.  This production offers a moment to celebrate the path forward towards reconciliation and renewal of the devastating travesty(more than 1 million people killed within 100 days) that occurred 25 years ago in Rwanda.

Rwanda Reborn: The Remix was performed through traditional and contemporary dance, music, along with theater and spoken word.  The program demonstrates a perfect example of linking classic and modern techniques together to convey a tribute to all the lives that have been affected by past tragic events in Rwandan history.  I enjoyed every moment of this incredible theatrical arrangement.Dance Africa | You Me NYCAs the show comes to a close, I exit the theater quickly.  My usual constitution is to walk down Lafayette Ave. through the heart of the festival.  Making my way through the crowd recognizing the usual faces and vendors,  I also see a lot of new faces, shopping, eating, vending and enjoying as well.  All the vendors lining the street with beautiful and exotic merchandise for sale are such a welcome site.  The smell of food fills the air with a delicious aroma rivaling the already well-known restaurants in the area.

This is what I love about this festival.   In an area of disappearing culture due to forced gentrification constraints, it is great to see that this festival is still a staple in this community.  It brings an experience that all Brooklyn natives in the community as well as newcomers have enjoyed and took part in for years. Dance Africa | You Me NYC

 

The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul: Jazz

The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul You Me NYCSaxophonist Branford Marsalis and his quartet have been playing rebellious and unapologetic Jazz for the past three decades.  Anyone familiar with this group is definitely aware of their high-flying improvisations that can launch at any given moment.  “The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul” is a perfect example of freeform at it’s best with each instrumental voice being defined with purpose.

For 20 of those years, piano player Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis have been a staple in the group.  Drummer Justin Faulkner has been with the band for about 10 years respectively.  I have to say that the band has reached another pinnacle tending to a collection of moods with motivating commitment.  Faulkner’s chops are crisp and smooth.  Calderazzo goes ahead and smokes the ivories and Revis’s bass line is fluent and on point.  Marsalis outdoes himself on this album, his phrasing is sharp and endless.  Each member of the quartet compliments each other the way an improv band should.

“Life Filtering from the Water Flowers” is Marsalis’ one and only composition on this album and it is of true Marsalis form.  This arrangement displays a cleverly organized instrumentation with very moving and contained sax riffs only Marsalis can phrase.  Calderazzo’s piano playing and Faulkner’s drumming help convey the message Marsalis is bringing across.   “Life Filtering from the Water Flowers”, compliments the album as a reflective tribute to his late mother Delores Marsalis.

“The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul” is a definite must-have for all Jazz fans.  The creativity of the improvisation tangents in each song is truly an original compilation that cannot be duplicated.  This album is an enjoyable and innovative listen that features some engaging moments of Jazz Improvisation.  This album serves as a perfect example as to why the Brandfors Marsalis Quartet is held in such high regard for the past 30 years.

Help You Move Out

As I sip my coffee and eat my breakfast, there’s a kid in his mid to late 20s sitting next to me, totally beside himself letting out a random depressing sigh as he’s going through his phone.  I pretend not to notice, however, after a while, it was really starting to get to me.  Now I know when you sit at the counter in a city diner, you are at the mercy of anyone that sits next to you.  As I take another sip, I hear another sigh, as I take another a bite, I hear another sigh.  This is just too much.

“What’s the matter with you,” I asked as I dropped my fork on the plate.  “I got a phone call from my father earlier this morning that really bummed me out,”  he said, as he goes through his phone.  “Oh yeah, so what’s got you all bummed out,” I asked.  “My father lost his job, he called me to let me know that and that he’s not going to be able to pay for my apartment anymore,” said the kid.  “Pay for your apartment, how old are you,”, I asked.  “I’m 26,” said the kid.  “You’re 26 and your father is paying for your apartment, how old is your father,” I asked.  “He just turned 62,” said the kid.  At this point, I am rather aggravated and I  say “C’mon man, your father is probably looking to settle down anyway, where are you living”?  ” I have a one bedroom in Murray Hill,” he said.  “A one bedroom, really, man you have got to be shitting me, do you work,” I asked.  “Yeah at a coffee shop in Soho, that’s how I get by,” he said.  I started laughing looked down and read my paper.

“I am trying to be an actor,” he said.  “Oh yeah and for how long has this pipe dream been going on,” I asked as I continue to read my paper.  “Ever since I can remember,” he said.  “Where you from originally,” I asked.  “Why,” he asked.  “Because you are definitely not from around here.  You would’ve told me to fuck off as soon as I asked ‘What’s wrong with you’.  Besides, I wanna see if this is one of those I am going to move to New York City and become famous types of stories,” I said.  “I’m from Nebraska,” he said.  “Oh, it’s a midwest story, leaving the midwest to come to New York City, the city where dreams are made, whatever that means.  Yeah, there’s a lot of that going around,” I said.  I started to laugh, then I asked, “Are you any good”?  “You wanna see some of my clips, ” he asked.

Just then the server came over and dropped my bill next to my coffee.  I picked up the bill and looked it over.  I look at the server and asked her “Would you be interested in looking at this kid’s clips”?  “Clips,” she asked.  “Yeah, he’s an actor, trying to live the New York City dream, you know, move here from some small town in the midwest and become famous,” I said.   “Sure,” she responded.

The kid goes through his phone, chooses the clips he wants us to see and puts his phone on the counter.  We gather around and start watching his reel.  I glance at his face and he is so proud of his work.  I look at the servers face and she is watching and showing no sign of any emotion or enthusiasm whatsoever.  After about 15 minutes the show was over.  I looked at the server and she looked at me.

“What do you think,” asked the kid.  “Can I bring you anything else,” the server asked me.  “Yeah, bring me this kid’s check,” I said.  The server walks off.  “So what do you think,” again asked the kid.  Before I could say anything the server came back and dropped the kid’s check next to me.  I handed a bill to her and asked, “Does this cover both”?  She smiles “Enough for you too,” I asked.  She smiles and nods, “Good, then keep the rest,” I said.  The server rushes off.  “Damn, she didn’t even tell me what she thought,” said the kid.  “She feels the same way I feel,” I said.  “How do you know,” he asked.  “She and I are born and raised New York, even better, born and raised Brooklyn.  We can read each other’s thoughts just by facial expressions,” I said.  “Really so what did she think,” he asked.  “You suck, I took care of your check so you can save your money and go back to Nebraska.  Go help out your father.  How long have you been trying to do this acting gig anyway,” I asked.  “I don’t suck and for your information, I’ve only been at this acting gig for 4 years.  What do you know and what does she know, she’s a waitress in a broken-down New York City Diner,” he angrily said.  “I know a hell of a lot and I know that you need to go out and get yourself a real job so you can keep that apartment and stop exploiting your old man, you fucking jerk off, ” I said as I gather the rest of my things.  “I don’t need to do any of that, I’ll just talk to my landlord and ask him for some help,” he said.  “The only help your landlord is going to give you is help moving out and if you show him your acting reel, he’ll throw you out you lemon,” I said.

At that moment the kid stormed out of the diner.  A few moments later the server came back.

“So what’s on your agenda today, ” she asked.  “I’ve just been inspired to write an article today,” I said.  “Great, what inspired you?  I hope it wasn’t that kid’s acting because he sucks, he’s terrible,” she said.  “Funny, I told him the same thing and  he told me that he doesn’t,” I said.  “Really,” she exclaimed.  We both had a good laugh and went about our day.

Getting to Know ToniSteelz

Toni Steelz You Me NYCToniSteelz, Brooklyn born and raised, adult-contemporary hip-hop artist has been performing ever since she was a kid.  Considering she comes from a long line of performers in her family, performing comes naturally to her.  As busy as she is, she took a few moments out of her day to allow You Me NYC to get to know a little more about her.

A day for Toni starts with an early rise and a prayer.  Then she lets the dog out to take care of his business.  Next, she dedicates an hour or two to social media and emails.  Then breakfast, yoga to follow and then she takes a walk around the neighborhood to prepare for the day and kick off her creative flow.

Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and Queen Latifah are her musical inspirations when it comes to creating her work.  Her process requires meditation, water, snacks, trees, a pen, paper and space.  Toni Collaborates with other artists as well and finds the process to be a bit more simple.  According to Toni, it’s easier to bounce ideas off of someone else.  She will definitely work with other artists in the future.

Toni loves her work, she loves to create, meet new people and adores her fans.  When her fans reach out she reaches back.  She can’t acknowledge all of her fans, but she does try her best.  She does, however, dislike the backhandedness and the judgments that come with the territory in this industry.  However, when asked if she ever thought about leaving the performing arts and starting a new career, she replied with an emphatic “No”.  Hence why she involves herself with other aspects of the industry such as acting, writing and producing.  She is also considering other genres, like, RnB/Soul and fake singing(jokingly) as well.

With all that is going on in her life, we asked if she ever has time for herself and her response, “I make time for myself”.  Unfortunately, she learned that the hard way, after she was hospitalized for dehydration.  Toni relaxes by going to theme parks, comedy shows, traveling, hanging out, enjoying a nice bowl of pasta(her favorite food), watching television(The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is her favorite show) and occasionally takes a “hit” of “weed”.

Toni Steelz You Me NYCConclusion

Be consistent, relentless, focused and always remember to have fun which is her advice to anyone trying to get into the game.  According to Steelz, “ToniSteelz” is the future and she plans on bringing her lady friends with her.  She sees herself creating and starring in films along with a few other business ventures.  Toni is traveling on a long road and she is excited to see where it brings her.  We at You Me NYC are delighted to be a part of that journey.

 

Check out ToniSteelz’s “Welcome to my Hood” and share with all you know.

Hip Hop Started out in the Heart

Hearing the theme music to Wayne’s Brother’s play for the first time changed my life forever. Electric Relaxation by the Hometown Heroes, A Tribe Called Quest. I guess you can say that’s when I decided to make it official with Hip Hop. No doubt about it, I was in love and couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it. I’ve had crushes before but nothing like this, nothing I could put into words. Just a feeling I couldn’t and didn’t want to describe. Kind of like the first time you have great sex. A Tribe Called Quest You Me NYCA Tribe Called Quest in the early days. From left to right,
Jarobi White, Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Phife Dawg.
Ernie Paniccioli/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

That’s what Hip Hop is to me, a feeling with such a vast everlasting stamp on this world. Too much to box in but just enough to recognize. However with any and everything, we need reasons to classify and define. If it doesn’t fall into the guidelines regulated by individuals not even responsible for its creation; it’s seen as blasphemy and should be punishable by law. Funny, I haven’t been on this earth as long as most people, however, I have never heard anyone debate so passionately about who’s the best country singer. Especially when it comes to content. There’s a certain kind of freedom allowed in other genres that I don’t see in Hip Hop. It’s always who did it first, who’s the king or queen? Who’s the strongest lyrically? No real room for growth, variety or inclusivity. Unless it’s being used for advertising purposes, then the lanes and streams are endless.  

Hip hop tends to get treated like the troublesome teenager with talent and promise that needs to be disciplined and watched constantly. That one kid all the students love and the teachers can’t stand. The kid with straight A’s who lived in detention really out of boredom unless you needed to show diversity on campus. Hip Hop is almost 40 years old and should be treated as such including the artists who continue to strive and create in this genre. 

I love hip hop but I hate having discussions about it sometimes. If you say more quote on quote conscious artists like Kendrick and J Cole then you get some form of respect but if you say Migos or Kodak then your musical choices are in question when there’s room for everyone to have a seat at the table. Like for BET to trash Nicki Minaj while congratulating Cardi B on her Grammy was disappointing. I’m actually not a fan of either personally but both women worked hard, created their lane and succeeded in it. That’s what Hip Hop is all about. Take out the competition, find the beauty in that. Get back to the heart.  

Let’s Keep Talking About R Kelly

Robert Kelly, known as R Kelly is one of our generations biggest musical legends.  With smashes like I Believe I can Fly, Step In The Name of Love, Ignition, he’s earned many, many accolades.  Big accolades like multiple BET awards and Soul Train awards. I mean in 1998, he won three grammy’s alone and all for the same song.

Literally, everyone knows this song.  And if you don’t, now you do because I mentioned it above.  I sang this song in my elementary graduation when I was just a little girl in the year None of Your Business.  I Believe I Can Fly has been etched in our culture for good.

Now, here’s what happens.  In 1994, he marries Aaliyah who was 15 at the time.  Aaliyah’s hit, ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number” sparked rumors that Aaliyah and the writer of that song, yes, R Kelly, were boyfriend and girlfriend.  These rumors were denied.  Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001 at the age of 22.  Kelly had nothing to do with the plane crash, he just married someone who was barely a teenager at the time.

 

 

 

 

 

Back in February 2002, a video surfaced.  We all know the video.  This video included Kelly allegedly engaging in sexual behaviors with an underage (14 years old) girl.  In this same video, the man allegedly identified as Kelly, is seen urinating in her mouth.

In 2008, he goes on trial for multiple counts child pornography.

Now, a lifetime series titled “Surviving R Kelly” comes out, which brings up the heat in the controversy all over again.  To me, it seems like the topic was hot for a couple of days, maybe a little bit over a week and now, nobody’s talking about it… again.

Now some, including myself, would call him a musical genius, a legend, even.  But since the docuseries, artists have publicized their opinions, labels have dropped him and musical platforms have muted him.

In the streets, the debate became, can we separate the monster from his music?  Everyone here, in my tiny NYC apartment, has jammed to R Kelly at one point, whether we were stepping in the name of love at a wedding, graduating to I Believe I Can Fly, or getting lit to Remix to Ignition.

Here’s my opinion.  I’m not going to take the mans music away from him.  But, I haven’t played R Kelly in ages.  What?  Ya’ll were too busy stepping in the name of love to realize that this man is not a decent one.

Let me know… I just want people to keep talking about it because it’s important.

 

 

The Other Side of the Story

The Other Side of the Story is an album full of head nodding songs with a Wayne Shorter feel, coupled with a spiritual and arcadian effect that only Matt Kane can deliver.  Kane’s influence is all over this album along with the undisputed truth that he can write songs and write them well.The Other Side of the Story You Me NYC
(Image courtesy of Matt Kane)

The team Kane put together for this album, comprised of vibraphonist Peter Schlamb, Pianist Klaus Mueller, guitar player Vic Juris and bass player Mark Peterson.  The Chromatic solos fo Schlamb and Muller work together perfectly on each track of the album.  Couple their playing together with the dynamic, sexy riffs and phrasing of Juris’ guitar playing is an added bonus.  Kane and Peterson back each soloist with solid rhythm.  Kane’s drumming technique drives the music forward, generating statements of his own, with tight snare whips in a march-like pace.

What I love about this album is that Kane explores a plethora of moods.  “Jump Rope Dance” is an exceptional example of funk, while “Eureka Springs” has an energetic feel of a road trip.  Then there is “Distance” which exhibits a rustic, rural feel, like being out in the wilderness camping.  “Drive” is all about a rock feel and is also Kane putting on a drum clinic.  He starts with a single tap to a full explosion of controlled drumming.

Conclusion:

The Other Side of the Story is a collective adventure that will take you on a ride through all the different moods Kane brings to the table.  Kane tells the other side of the story to us very well, not only as a bandleader but as a composer too.  This is the first album Kane composed and I am waiting with “Great Expectations” for his next work.  This album is a must-have for Jazz lovers and music enthusiasts of all genres as well.

Gorillaz Gone Ape In the Barclays

Closing in on the colossal stadium, in the now metropolitan, which is Fort Greene, lies the Barclay’s Center.  The Barclays Center is certainly a circus of lights, advertisement and a certain glint of “New York” spirit. Whether it is the most out of place Roc-A-Wear clothing store or extremely lit (with actual lights) subway entrance to guarantee that you’ve definitely made it to your destination the Brooklyn way. Making my way into the colosseum in the city there’s a brief halt to the glamour and glitter while being checked in through the short security section. The lobby area is nothing special, especially when comparing to the light show that’s going on outside. Once past all the meekness of entering the tunnel to get to your seat, lies vendor after vendor serving decadent meals and frosty cold beers. The homage train car near the exclusive “American Express” entryway isn’t lost on this New York however, it does serve as a cool separation for the haves and the people who are actually riding the train.

Gorillaz Gone Ape You Me NYC(Image Courtesy of New York City Theater)

The Internet was a sublime opener for those previously unaware of the group. With a cocktail mix of R&B, hip-hop, funk and electronic they served as the perfect amuse-bouche to the audience. Even though there were a number of seats still being filled in, the waiting crowd was vibing to the beats.

Anticipation wore heavy on me wondering with questions of what form the band would appear in for the show. Previously known for concealing their identity with some groovy animations or using their silhouettes, the band storms on stage with a wild energy. Their outfits matching the presence of their music, electrical and eclectic.  All except for the frontman of the band, David Albarn’s character 2-D, represents a similarly grungy, laid back, cigarette ashing on my washed out black T-Shirt vibe. The other members performing as the backup in some radical bright patterns and eye-catching colors, like the animated videos in the background showing the remaining animated members of the band.

Gorillaz Gone Ape You Me NYC(Image Courtesy of Brooklyn Vegan)

The first song bringing the band on stage “M1 A1” screams out an ominous call for help, behind a building guitar riff which is reminiscent of early guitar hero strumming that breaks into an electrifying brit rock anthem. It was an excellent way to start and rile up the crowd after a comparatively calm band like The Internet.

Followed up by ‘Tranz’ a trancey toon with an animated video of the nonhuman portion performing, gives a feel of what some of the first songs put out by the band.  There is more of a rock influence backing the track.  ‘Last Living Souls’ was next up using a beat machine.  David Albarn introduces a tougher hip-hop beat while the song sings out questioning the humanity of people while alternating between beats and a country-like ballad.  This song shows how the band can seamlessly incorporate different genres.

The band coasts through “Rhinestone Eyes” a softer melody before getting into the far creepier “Saturn Barz” featuring Popcaan. The song is dark visually and linguistically.  Popcaan sings through some of the painful realities of his life growing up in Jamaica, to a contrastingly creepy electronic rhythm. The electronic presence of the group, likely wouldn’t have translated as well without the harmonious background cast of all black singers. There, a solo by a spectacular talent that was especially appreciated by the audience.

Other highlights of their epically extravagant set include a variety of guest stars including De La Soul, Peven Everett, Bootie Brown and a Brooklyn native Mos Def. The experience was a definite separation from a typical concert experience with well-choreographed animated videos, to bring clarity to the lyrics that are usually far more serious than their sometime’s pop-punky backtracks. Towards the end of the show, most of the sparsity in the crowd was filled with standing fans singing along. This being a more personable performance for the band, it only leaves us fans anticipating what the transformative group has ahead of them.

The Painted Lady Suite

The Painted Lady Suite is the debut album by the Michael Leonhart Orchestra (MLO).  Inspired by the incredible 9 thousand mile migration of the the “Painted Lady” butterfly. This suite is broken into two parts with seven movements.  Each part represents, two separate journeys of the “Painted Lady” butterfly. One journey is over North America to Canada.  The other from the Arctic Circle over Europe to North Africa.  Additionally, this compilation also contains three earlier pieces composed by Leonhart specifically for MLO. Michael Leonhart Orchestra The Painted Lady Suite You Me NYCFirst, is the additional track “In the Kingdom of MQ”.  A cool march , with a stimulating solo by tenor sax player Donny McCaslin. “In the Kingdom of MQ” is dedicated to Leonhart’s younger son Milo.  Portraying his son’s confident steps from toddler-hood to the joyful discoveries of being a young boy.   Next,” Music Your Grandparents Would Like” is what fusion is all about.  A “big band” swing with a rock feel, guitarist Nels Cline delivers a solo which Zappa would appreciate.  Thirdly the piece, “The Girl From Udaipur” depicts a family trip to India.  The baritone sax solos of Ian Hendrickson-Smith and Jay Leonhart bring this album to a chilling close.

First of all, I love this album because each song delivers a taste of the classical masters, such as Ravel and Stravinski.  If you are familiar with “Bolero” by Ravel, you can definitely recognize his influence in a lot of the music on this album.  Furthermore, you can also hear the influence of rock guitar legends Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix on this album as well.  Finally, the glue holding this album together is the style of Miles Davis and Quincy Jones.

Conclusion:

This is a definite “add” to your collection.  This album is perfect for any mood, therefore a must have for all Jazz aficionados.  Additionally, the progress and evolution of MLO parallels the journey of the “Painted Lady” butterfly.  Hence the creation of “The Painted Lady Suite”, which really hits home.  More importantly, this album is an illustration of a blend of genres that work well together.  “Painted Lady Suite” is solid, however the three additional tracks are what really make this album exceptional.