Tag Archives: going out

#FridayFinds – Pakistani-Brooklyn World Fusion and Facing the Music

(credits clockwise from top left: sandaraa.com, nickburkaotm, somervilleartscouncil.org, pondly.com
(credits clockwise from top left: sandaraa.com, nickburkaotm, somervilleartscouncil.org, pondly.com

This week started slowly, but then picked up quickly like that first ascent on a roller coaster, and then came down the other side zooming like an eagle possessed, stopping in mid-flight to rock a 25 minute guitar solo that melted so many faces off, before finally leaving us at the corner of Friday night and Saturday morning wondering “what the heck was that?” and amazed that we never once lost our lunch.

Here are a few of the things that made the adventure all the more excellent this week.

1. Tickled Pink on BlogBetterBoston’s {hub}Links

Once a week local Boston Blogger meetup BlogBetterBoston picks a theme and then selects five recent posts from its members to promote in a weekly roundup they call {hub}Links. This week the theme was spring colors, and my recent post on the colors, sights, and sounds of the season was among the posts selected. It’s a cool network to be a part of, full of wonderfully talented writers and doers in the community, and I’m thrilled to represent them this week. I sincerely recommend you check out the work of each featured writer as well. They’re lovely. And they sure know how to take a lot of pretty pictures. I wonder if they give lessons.

  • Around the World “L” shows us some colorful architecture you won’t want to miss.
  • Holly Dolly DIYed and dyed a dress and looks fabulous, of course.
  • Everyday Starlet gives advice on finding your best colors for fashion, hair and makeup…in video form.
  • Cuppajyo models a colorful spring look from local boutique Ku De Ta.

Want to be featured in the next edition? Sign up for the {hub}LINKS newsletter and submit your posts!

2. A Whole New World of Music with Sandaraa

When I’m not writing about music, talking about music, seeing shows, or working, I’m often volunteering at Vilna Shul, a historic synagogue in downtown Boston. It’s a beautiful building with lots of history, and for the last nearly 95 contiguous years there’s been an active Jewish presence there. The main sanctuary is particularly impressive with simple, stained glass windows and a high, vaulted ceiling. Suffice to say it’s got the right acoustics for a choir or chamber orchestra to perform, and I’ve had the chance to see a few groups of that sort perform there. Absolutely beautiful.

But I’d never seen anything like this.

Last night they hosted Sandaraa, a seven-piece outfit from Brooklyn that specializes in music from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the northwestern regions of India, and man did they hit it out of the park.

It was incredible. It’s fronted by vocalist and Pakistani native Zeb Bangash and backed by a band of multi-talented expert musicians from all over the country including clarinetist Michael Winograd and percussionist Richie Barshay. Each musician was a wonder unto themselves, and a few, including Michael, studied music just down the road at the New England Conservatory.

I loved how they used their western instruments to creat a haunting, eastern sound that you could have sworn was completely authentic if you didn’t see the bass, accordion, or clarinet.

And the band looked like they were having a blast up there. They fed off each other’s energy and rhythm beautifully. Even though this was only the second time they’d performed in months, they played as though they’d been doing it for years. Check them out if ever they’re in your neck of the woods (NYC friends, that means tomorrow night!).

3. Covering Up and Saving Face

Another wonderful thing about vinyl records is seeing cover art the way it was meant to be seen. CD and cassette tapes are lovely and portable, but you lose the scope and detail of the canvas that vinyl record covers provide. Some of these covers even have a bit of an “interactive” component as well that makes them particularly unique. Case in point is the cover sleeve for the Rolling Stone’s classic 1978 album Some Girls. The top layer features colorful and gaudy wigs superimposed on a bottom layer of faces that appear to belong to a host of your run-of-the-mill Hollywood starlets. Sliding the bottom layer out, however, reveals that the faces are actually just the members of the band done up in drag.

And speaking of faces, have you noticed how many album covers are just that? Happy faces, sad faces, red, white, and blue faces. Album covers depict the full spectrum of human emotion. This fact is not lost on the savvy social media-using, vinyl-loving masses, and they’ve brought a little extra pizazz to the fold with their hashtag #sleeveface.

The idea is simple: people take pictures of themselves holding these covers in front of them so that they become a piece of the scene. The results are often quite enjoyable and sometimes particularly inventive and impressive in their staging. I’m looking forward to making my own soon enough. Any good covers I should definitely use?

my first attempt at a #sleeveface. it's a work in progress.
my first attempt at #sleeveface. it’s a work in progress.

4. Pickin’ on the Front Porch

One of my favorite local music event of the year takes place tomorrow afternoon in Somerville: Porchfest.  Over a hundred bands from all over the Boston area will be performing on porches and in parks across the town beginning in the Union Square area tomorrow at noon and finishing up near Tufts by 6pm. Some of my favorites from last year like Black Marmot, Sheboom, and Somerville Symphony Orkestar are back again, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else is around.

So go. See. Enjoy and imbibe with all the wonderful, whimsical sights and sounds of this truly Somervillian spectacle. Though you might also want to bring a raincoat too… it’s supposed to be a bit wet. The event isn’t rain or shine though, so if it gets too wet things will take place on Sunday instead. Should be a lot of fun.

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#MondayMixtape – The Promise of the Open Road

photo by Mark Swick
the road to endless possibility (photo by Mark Swick)

This is the 2nd installment of our ever-so-often series on Songs About Travel and Far-off Places.

Healthy, free, the world before me
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.
– Walt Whitman

The thrill of exploration, the promise of something new. When everyday is filled with this sort of perspective, it gives us reasons to wake up in the morning and make every day count. Perhaps that’s why there are so many songs about the promise of the open road and the shining potential of what lies just beyond the horizon. There’s so much out there to be discovered. You just have to get moving and be open to whatever comes. Even the most distant milestones and goals can be made all the more attainable by the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other and taking your first steps in their direction.

All that potential, all that promise– all that traveling– can also take its toll on even the most hardy of explorers.  We may get too comfortable with a routine, lose track of the spark that set us out on the path to begin with, or maybe we’re blown off course by forces out of our control. But the potential for adventure and discovery is always there. It just might require a different approach– a different route– to find it.

These songs speak to the promise of new discovery that open roads– and open minds– inspire us to believe in.

1. Bruce Springsteen – Thunder Road

No song rivals this one in terms of brilliance and gusto– the sound of joy uninhibited. Such promise… such potential… It’s a “do you remember when we were wild and free” moment that’s running on a super-charged, turbo engine of love and burning, yearning desire. “These two lanes will take us anywhere.” All that power– all that potential– encapsulated in the long, emphatic delivery of that final word: “Anywhere.” Springsteen’s signature vibrato practically shivers with nervous excitement and anticipation of a man ready to take on whatever comes his way.

It’s the soundtrack starter to any James-Dean-esque drag racing scene. A start your engines moment, and feel those lions purr underfoot. Look out at the road as far as the eye can see and start dreaming.

2. Elton John – Tiny Dancer

Dial back the pulse pounding, sweat inducing pace and a massage in a little more dreamy, misty remembrance of those bygone days and you get this Elton John classic. A tender ode to a love that once was and frenzied, frantic setting that made that made it all possible– out there on the wide open road. It’s a mad world out there, filled with some crazy, zany characters, John sings. People trying to sell you everything including those things that can’t be measured like businessmen selling love or “Jesus freaks” selling God and salvation. They promise quick fixes and cure-alls but are then gone as quickly as they’ve arrived and the problems still remain.

The only sure refuge, John sings, is to put your trust in the ones who really love you– the ones who will always be there. “Count the headlights on the highway / You’ve had a busy day today…” Let me take the lead for now, and lay back in the comfort of this trusty, rusty, and warm old jalopy. It’s heading on to somewhere fresh and new, on a course for somewhere, moving south by south-wherever. The chance for a new start is there just over the horizon so long as we’re together.

3. James Taylor – Riding on a Railroad

For all the positivity and promise that time on the open road affords, some days are just tough no matter where you are. Those days where time seems to fly by even as you feel it’s slogging along and that you’ve just been sitting in place for hours on end; those days you think about how much time you spend promoting other people’s visions and wish you had more time to spend on the things you care about; those days you aspire to your pinnacle best but simply end up chipping at the weeds below. This is the song for those days.

It’s the soliloquy of a man reflecting on his lot and wondering how it got this way. What happens when you’ve worked hard all your life only to realize that you’ve just been playing a supporting role to someone else’s succes “singing someone else’s song” (and that the higher power you always believed in might just be another with “chains upon his hands”– a mere mortal passenger in this life just like you)?

That’s what this song’s all about, and it says it all in just over two and a half minutes.

Some days are like that. But even as your beliefs may feel shaken or rattled to the core– that life’s no simple dichotomy of black and white, fair and unfair, or right or wrong– the best thing you can do is hold on tight, “sing along,” and believe in yourself to get through. You’ll get there. One trip at a time.

4. U2 – Angel of Harlem

Other times there’s a certain comfort derived from those tried and true melodies. Songs like the one remembered that’s exulted and celebrated here. These weary travelers could just as easily have been on another routine trip to New York, but it wasn’t. Because of this song. It’s a jubilant exhalation of finding security and contentment that can shine its way through any gloom and withstand all earthly elements and the test of time weather it’s a “cold and wet December day” or an ability to “see the truth behind the lies.” And as the song builds towards its zenith, it’s clear that like finding “salvation in the blues,” hope and joy can be found anywhere. Anywhere.

5. Paul Simon – Under African Skies

When the situations aren’t so rosy and bright, when we are compelled to get up and go by those aforementioned outside factors, this song reminds us that we never need feel alone in our situations. Our story– our song– is inextricably linked to the ones who have come before, connecting us all as part of that great wide, wandering world. “This is the story of how we begin to remember” and this is an appreciation to the power of music as both constant companion to us as we are now as well as the link to our history and place in time.