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  • Thank you, Detroit

    I’m not going to lie to you – this isn’t easy. This week, the final City Slang local music column will be published in the Metro Times (on hardcore band Final Assault), and I have just submitted a cover feature on the women of Detroit hip-hop, to be published next week (8/6). This blog that you’re reading now will be my last one as a regular MT contributor. I have a lot to look forward to. I’m going to be an associate editor at Yellow Scene Magazine in Colorado, a tremendous publication in a beautiful part of the country. But leaving Detroit will be incredibly difficult for me. I love the place. It’s been (amazingly) six and a half years since I arrived, a couple of cases in hand and not much of a plan in mind. I just knew, after three separate research trips for books and a magazine article, that I felt at home here. Metro Times offered me freelance work almost immediately, as did a new website called Metromix (whatever happened to that?) When I arrived here, I had been working as a writer in the UK for nine years, but the help and encouragement I received […]

    The post Thank you, Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Christmas in July, Jack White, and the Tigers

      We here at MT will be delighted when Mr. Jack White throws out a pitch at Navin Field (at least, we hope he will), but until then, we’ll be happy with his pitch to Santa this evening at Comerica Park.    

    The post Christmas in July, Jack White, and the Tigers appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Watch footage of the Gathering of the Juggalos dubbed with Morgan Freeman narration (NSFW)

      Footage from the Gathering of the Juggalos set to clips of Morgan Freeman’s narration from March of the Penguins? Kind of forced, but also kind of beautiful. As the AV Club reports: The oft-sought voiceover champion lends a touch of gravitas to the festival proceedings. Unfortunate scenes of barely clad people having various liquids dumped onto them now carries a quiet dignity as it’s all part of nature’s majestic plan that keeps the world spinning through this elegantly designed and truly wondrous universe. Also, the video is NSFW as there are boobs in it. Watch the clip below:

    The post Watch footage of the Gathering of the Juggalos dubbed with Morgan Freeman narration (NSFW) appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Turn to Crime debut chilly video for “Can’t Love”

    It seems like the polar vortex will never end: the weather phenomenon that brought us the most brutal winter on record this winter is to blame for this summer’s chillier-than usual temperatures as well. A couple of bands, though, made lemonade out of lemons (or snow cones out of snow?) by using the icy landscape to film music videos. 800beloved shot the video for “Tidal” in some sand dunes near Empire, Mich., and this week Turn to Crime debuted the video for “Can’t Stop,” the title track of their recently-released album. Even more piles of ice and snow might be the last thing Detroiters want to see right now, but the footage makes for some good visuals that mesh well with the song. Watch the video below:

    The post Turn to Crime debut chilly video for “Can’t Love” appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Duggan takes control of Detroit water department; says changes to approach on ‘delinquent payment issues’ needed

    Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr transferred oversight of the the city’s water department Tuesday to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in an order intended to refocus “efforts to help DWSD customers get and remain current on their water bills,” Orr’s office said today. “This order provides additional clarity to the powers already delegated to the mayor,” Orr said in a statement released Tuesday. “As the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department works to operate more efficiently and communicate more effectively with customers, it is important to ensure there are clear lines of management and accountability.” Duggan will have the authority to manage DWSD and make appointments to the utility’s board, according to a news release. In a statement issued Tuesday, the mayor said he welcomed Orr’s order, adding that officials will develop a plan that “allows those who truly need to access to financial help … to do so with shorter wait times.” “We need to change a number of things in the way we have approached the delinquent payment issues and I expect us to have a new plan shortly,” Duggan said. “There are funds available to support those who cannot afford their bills — we need to do a much better job in […]

    The post Duggan takes control of Detroit water department; says changes to approach on ‘delinquent payment issues’ needed appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Rovers Scooter Club Celebrates 10 Years

    Rovers Scooter Club, a local gang dedicated to celebrating and riding motor scooters, will be celebrating its 10 year anniversary this week with a very special ride. Motor City Shakedown, the annual birthday party for the club, will commence this Friday, August 1 at New Way Bar. DJ Grover from Cincinnati will be spinning northern soul, reggae, and ska, according to club member Michael Palazzola. Saturday will feature a ride from Ferndale to Detroit, starting at noon at M-Brew. Palazzola says this is where most bikes will congregate before taking the ride to the city and folks will be prepping by getting some grub starting at 10 a.m.  Detroit’s Tangent Gallery will host the after party,  a special event that will feature performances by several bands as well as Satori Circus. That portion of the event will commence at 8 p.m. with performances starting at 9 p.m. It’s free to riders, but the public is welcome to join the party with the mere cost of a door charge. Come midnight, the club will raffle off a vintage Lambretta LI 150. Sunday morning will end the weekend of festivities, with brunch taking place at the Bosco in Ferndale.   

    The post Rovers Scooter Club Celebrates 10 Years appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Stir It Up

A survivor's song

Shahida Nurullah a symbol of beating adversity with grace intact

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2006:03:03 14:37:01


The day after an election, folks mostly want to talk about the results from the polls. That's commendable, although I've heard numerous people say they couldn't wait for the election to be over these past few weeks. Unfortunately, my deadline for this column was well before any results were available. So I thought I'd discuss something that I find pleasant. Consider it a respite from all the tough issues you've been pondering in this election season — which brings me to singer Shahida Nurullah.

I have some affection for her. This emotion is based pretty equally on her infectiously positive attitude toward life and her ability to sing like an angel. Well, the truth is that I have no idea what an angel's voice sounds like, but I'd be willing to bet that Nurullah sings as well as those heavenly creatures. Here's something that is not up for conjecture — by all rights Nurullah could easily be depressed and never sing again. No one would blame her if she had a shitty attitude about life and never sang another note.

In 1988, she was hit by a Cadillac while crossing the street at Van Dyke and Kercheval while heading to a bus stop on her way to work at Gayle's Chocolates in Royal Oak. Nurullah flew into the air from the impact and landed on her head. She broke her left leg, knee, arm and shoulder, and she had a closed-head brain injury. She stopped breathing and, had it not been for CPR administered to her on the street before the ambulance arrived, she could well have died. She was in a coma for two-and-a-half weeks.

I know that about her. What the average person might know about her is that she is the woman who sang the national anthem at the Detroit Tigers baseball game on Labor Day. Or you might have seen her sing "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch in the first playoff game against the Oakland Athletics.

"That is not something you ever think about," says Nurullah, who admits crying when she got the call to do the national anthem. "When I got ready to go out on the field it was like something I've never experienced. I was just trying to remember the words. I was like, ‘God, don't let me forget the words to "God Bless America."' I never sang before that many people before."

You'll have to forgive her for the slight fault. I've heard her sing before at least a couple hundred thousand people at Hart Plaza during the jazz festival. However, she is probably reaching her biggest audience ever right now in radio and television advertisements for the Detroit Medical Center's new Neuroscience Unit in the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan. She sings the Four Tops' "Reach Out, I'll Be There," the DMC's theme song the past few years, and tells some of her own story. 

"They gave me back my voice," Nurullah says in the ads. "They gave me back my life."

Chatom Hill, vice president of creative services at the DMC, thought she was perfect for the campaign. "It's a great concept," he says. "Shahida is this great singer so we thought we'd work with that instead of doing a straight testimonial."

Nurullah was a patient at the Rehabilitation Institute after her accident. It's where she came to realize that her injuries required more than six months of recuperation. Her accident was a life-changing event. 

She had to learn how to walk again, and how to sing.  She walks with a cane and doesn't have full rotation in her left wrist. And, a symptom of her brain injury, she gets tired very easily. 

"I have to deal with the effects of the accident every day," says Nurullah. "I have to deal with different levels of energy, levels of discomfort, I can't memorize things as well as I used to. Some of it is effects of the accident and some of it is just the effects of aging. I'm 55 years old now."

I wrote a big story about Nurullah 12 years after her accident, in 2000. I won an award for the story from the Michigan Press Association — best human interest feature. Most of the time in the journalism business, you write a story about someone and then move on to the next one. It's not often that you maintain a relationship with a subject. But then Nurullah's a singer, and I like the way she sings. 

She has a wonderful stage presence that draws audiences into the performance as she talks about the songs and might ask the audience to guess what movie a song was the theme for. She's a jazz singer. In many cases, that means the vocalist has a license to add unusual ornaments to the song, but has an unwavering allegiance to the melody. She sings in five different languages, although she has her own affection for Brazilian music by the likes of Gilberto Gil and Antonio Carlos Jobim. She learned to sing their songs in Portuguese by listening to records and copying their words phonetically without actually understanding them. 

Now, 12 years since the last article, I find reason to revisit her story. Everybody likes being recognized by the folks back home, and Nurullah has been getting the D-love lately through the Tigers and the DMC. She's been plying her trade all along, having done shows at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, an American Songbook concert with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra, and club dates around town. She teaches voice at the University of Windsor a couple of days a week, although she doesn't make enough to cut off her Social Security disability status. She'd love to be able to support herself but there aren't that many club dates to be had in Detroit, and travel for her presents many obstacles.

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