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  • 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.

  • Lessenberry on the battle to ban the Metro Times

    Turns out, our very own Jack Lessenberry knows the Grosse Pointer seeking to ban the MT: Ten years or so ago, a woman named Andrea Lavigne sat in on some media survey classes I was teaching at Wayne State University. She was in her late 30s or early 40s, and seemed to be searching for answers. She wanted to know how the media work, and told me she was a Maoist. This fascinated me, because I thought authentic Maoists were almost as rare as passenger pigeons. Chairman Mao, we now know, starved to death and slaughtered tens of millions of his own citizens, and kept China economically and intellectually backward. Intrigued, I got together one night before class with her and another Maoist, to find out what they were all about. Alas, they spouted a form of primitive, grade-school Marxism. They seemed to have very little historical knowledge of Communism or what it had actually been like. Yes. A Maoist. Read the full story at Michigan Radio here.

    The post Lessenberry on the battle to ban the Metro Times appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit residents sue incinerator owner over ‘noxious odors and contaminants’

    A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the owner of Detroit’s municipal solid waste incinerator Monday, accusing the company of nuisance and gross negligence violations According to the complaint filed by Detroit-based Liddle & Dubin P.C., “On occasions too numerous to list, Plaintiffs’ property including Plaintiffs’ neighborhood, residences and yards were physically invaded by noxious odors and contaminants … As a direct and proximate result of the Defendant’s’ negligence in operating and/or maintaining the facility, Plaintiffs’ property has been invaded by noxious odors.” The eight-page complaint charges that local property values have dropped due to the incinerator’s presence, “and has interfered with Plaintiffs’ use and enjoyment of their property.” The lawsuit, filed in Wayne County Circuit Court, seeks a financial award in excess of $25,000 and all costs and attorney fees related to the case. In an email, a spokesperson for the company says, “Detroit Renewable Power is reviewing the complaint filed today,” but declined further comment. The suit comes weeks after a Metro Times’ cover story earlier this month found a growing number of odor complaints from nearby residents since Detroit Renewable Power LLC (DRP) took control of the facility in 2010. The investigation found a spike in citations from the Michigan Department […]

    The post Detroit residents sue incinerator owner over ‘noxious odors and contaminants’ appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Winners announced for the ‘High Times’ Medical Cannabis Cup

    The High Times Medical Cannabis Cup is more than just a celebration — although with the recent shift in attitudes toward marijuana legalization, there certainly is much to celebrate.  HT‘s Danny Danko described it as “just like any other harvest festival or a county fair where people bring their best produce, their best pigs and horses and cows, and they compete with each other for bragging rights, basically.” Here are a list of winners from this year’s Cannabis Cup, who did indeed walk home with some well-deserved bragging rights — if anyone knows their marijuana it’s High Times: Indica 1ST - Oasis Medical Seeds - Paris OG 2ND - Herbal Solutions - Alien Dawg F2 3RD - Herban Legendz, LLC - Grape OX Sativa 1ST - Arborside Compassion - CATFISH 2ND - Organibliss - Ghost Train Haze #1 3RD - We Grow Education and Collective Centers - MelonGum Hybrid 1ST - Herbal Solutions - Gorilla Glue 2ND - Pure West Compassion Club - Death Star 3RD - Kushman Veganics for Buds & Roses - Veganic Candyland Concentrate 1ST - Mr. B’s Extracts - Raskal’s Lemon 2ND - 710 Savant - Kosher Kush Dewaxed 3RD - Oasis Medical / Vader Extracts / Dab Vader - Candy Jack Shatter Non-Solvent Hash 1ST - NLG - Jedi Kush Ice Wax 2ND - Arborside Compassion - HeadCandy Kush Hash 3RD - New World Seeds Resource […]

    The post Winners announced for the ‘High Times’ Medical Cannabis Cup appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Satanists Leverage Hobby Lobby Ruling In Support of Pro­Choice Initiative

    So is the title of the press release we received this morning from The Satanic Temple. You may recall our interview with Doug Mesner from earlier this year. The Satanic Temple is, perhaps, best known for trying to build a child-friendly monument to satan in OKC: How Mesner and TST are rocking the Hobby Lobby ruling is interesting: The Satanic Temple Leverages Hobby Lobby Ruling to Claim Exemption From State Mandated ProLife Materials Reads the next line of the press release. And then their website: A number of states require that abortion providers give information to patients that maybe inaccurate or misleading. Demands that members of the Satanic Temple, or those who share our beliefs, be subjected against our will to anything but the best scientific understanding are a violation of our religious beliefs. Thanks to rulings such as Hobby Lobby, we can take a stand against these practices. Mesner points out how the Hobby Lobby ruling bolsters their position: While we feel we have a strong case for an exemption regardless of the Hobby Lobby ruling, the Supreme Court has decided that religious beliefs are so sacrosanct that they can even trump scientific fact. This was made clear when […]

    The post Satanists Leverage Hobby Lobby Ruling In Support of Pro­Choice Initiative appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Reports from the ‘High Times’ Medical Marijuana Cup in Clio

    On Saturday we set out to check out the High Times Medical Marijuana Cup in Clio, Mich. — High Times did hold a Cannabis Cup in the Motor City back in 2011, but Detroit police flexing their muscles and making arrests at that event may have been to blame, at least partially, for the choice of a new host city. The event was held this year at the Auto City Speedway, (also known as “B.F.E.” to Detroiters). Nevertheless, the prospect of stopping at the Torch for the best burger in the Genessee County was compelling — and anyway, this was the Cannabis Cup we were talking about. Was it really going to be “work?” It turned out, just a little bit. An inexplicable lack of an on-site ATM meant hiking quite a ways up the road to the nearest gas station, and then waiting for an attendant to restock the ATM with cash. We spoke with plenty of Cannabis Cup attendees at the gas station — everybody knows that the local gas station is a stoner’s best-friend. The two-day festival, for which one-day tickets were sold for $40, was divided into two sections — a general area and a medicating […]

    The post Reports from the ‘High Times’ Medical Marijuana Cup in Clio appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Fela's last laugh

The father of Afro-beat’s long march to Broadway and Music Hall

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Sahr Ngaujah as Fela with Catherine Foster (l) and Nicole de Weever. The Nigerian Afro-beat radical is reincarnated as a Broadway sensation.


Fela Kuti would often perform with a painted face and thick chains draping his slim body's bare chest; he'd stalk the stage playing sax, keys and drums while chain-smoking enough cigar-size spliffs to make a Rasta village jealous. Scantily clad female dancers gyrated around him, while 15 or 20 drummers, guitarists, horn players and more wailed on anthems praising pan-African solidarity and lambasting corruption and colonialisms, tunes with evocative titles like "Zombie," "I.T.T. (International Thief, Thief)," or "Beasts of No Nation." He sang in Pidgin English so he could be understood across the African continent.

Offstage, Fela was an uncompromising social activist. He championed traditional Yoruban religion and declared his band's commune and recording facility, the Kalakuta Republic, a sovereign nation. After "Zombie," a 1977 attack on the Nigerian military ("Zombie no go think unless you tell am to think"), some 1,000 soldiers struck back and burned down Kalakuta, threw Fela's mother and brother from a window and beat the musician within an inch of his life. Fela's mother died from her injuries and he delivered her coffin to the residence of General Olusegun Obasanjo, president of Nigeria; the song "Coffin for the Head of State" memorialized the action. After the official investigation blamed an unknown soldier, he answered in the song "Unknown Soldier." His music made him a hero to the poor and downtrodden of Africa, but at best a cult figure for America. Until now. 

All those things that were Fela — the music, the politics, the outrageousness — are woven together in Fela!, the Broadway musical written by Bill T. Jones and Jim Lewis, which runs through March 4 at Detroit's Music Hall for the Performing Arts. It arrives two years after its Broadway premiere with three Tony Awards, following successful runs in London and Lagos, and tours in Canada and the United States.

Rikki Stein — Fela's manager for 17 years and a Fela! creative consultant — contrasts the show's reception in this country and back in Nigeria: "We took it to Lagos in February. It opened at the Shrine [a nightclub near Kalakuta]. It was phenomenal, the reaction of the audience. They know the words of the songs and laugh at all the jokes. In the United States, it's a story; in Lagos it's history. From the perspective of Nigeria's young people, it's revealing of the past. For the older people, it's a trip down memory lane. His lifestyle was so radical, particularly as far as the middle class was concerned. I really miss the guy, and finally the world is catching up on what he was doing."

 

Fela Ransome Kuti was born in 1938 in Nigeria's Ogun state. Claiming that Ransome was a slave name, he later changed his middle name to Anikulapo, which means "he who carries death in his pouch." He came to his activism through his family. His minister-school principal father helped organize Nigeria's first teachers union and became its first president. His mother fought against British colonial rule and helped Nigerian women win the right to drive. She met with Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah as well as China's Mao Zedong. Nobel laureate novelist Wole Soyinka is a first cousin to Fela.

Fela's two brothers became doctors, and in 1958, despite the fact that he had been playing music since age 8, Fela was sent to London to study medicine. Instead, he enrolled in the Trinity College of Music and formed a band that played jazz and easy-going Nigerian highlife music. He returned to Nigeria in 1963 and continued his jazz-highlife fusion while searching for something more in the music. Four years later, he coined the term Afro-beat for his revolutionary new mix of traditional Yoruban music, highlife, jazz, funk and rock with chanting call-and-response vocals. His philosophy was developed further after a 1969 visit to the United States, where he learned about the black power movement. Deported for working without a permit, he renamed his band Africa '70, redirected his lyrics from romance to politics, threw himself into social activism, formed the Kalakuta Republic and put himself on the path to becoming Africa's most popular musician. 

His reputation was growing in 1970 when he met and recorded with former Cream drummer Ginger Baker. Baker made a rare early film of a Fela performance that can be found on YouTube. 

The Kalakuta Republic was Fela's base of operations. Most people associated with the band lived there, his recording studio was there, and he opened a club called the Afro Spot at a nearby hotel where he performed weekly 2 a.m.-to-dawn shows. The club was later named the Shrine, and he called his intense performances — wherein raw ensemble horn lines gave way to adventurous solos ripping through walls of sound woven with funk-styled guitar lines and Yoruban drumming — "the underground spiritual game." Think of P-Funk meeting Sun Ra with Bob Marley overtones.

The philosophical underpinnings of the music were laid down at weekly political discussion groups held at Kalakuta. Fela's compositions were often direct outgrowths of the discussions.

"Fela always had his saxophone with him and would play at any time," says self-taught artist Lemi Ghariokwu, who designed 26 of Fela's album covers starting in 1974. "When there was a pause in the conversation, he would play."

Stein says, "Fela was at odds with the authorities more than anything else. The best night was when we met once a week to discuss issues. He was akin to the 19th century pamphleteers. They would crank out tracts that would be distributed to the people. Fela's mode of communication was music. We'd have a discussion and he'd go write about it. Over time he began to sing and talk about issues that weren't only Nigerian. His message does have relevance, resonance in Detroit. "

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