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  • The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues

    Ypsilanti police are still searching for the person dubbed the “mystery pooper.” Someone has been, as the Associated Press politely puts it today, “soiling slides at an Ypislanti playground over the last six months.” So, of course, someone purchased an electronic billboard along I-94 near Huron St. at exit 183 that delivers multiple calls for action: For instance,”Help us flush the pooper.” The company that purchased the billboard, Adams Outdoor Advertising, knows how to reach the world in the 21st Century, branding each billboard with a hashtag for the public utilize in its efforts: #ypsipooper. WJBK-TV says the billboard also toggles through other rich lines, such as: “Do your civic doody, report the pooper #YPSIPOOPER” “Help us catch the poopetrator #YPSIPOOPER.” You can have the runs, but you can’t hide. They’re still looking for you, Mystery Pooper.

    The post The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co.

    It’s a really, very cool idea. Paxahau, the good people behind the Movement Electronic Music Festival, are hosting a series of warm-up events, or previews, to the big festival which takes place Memorial Day weekend. On Thursday evening, Movement moved into the Urban Coffee Bean on Grand River in Detroit. While Dj AvA and Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp ably worked the decks, the regular coffee shop goings on continued behind them. It made for an interesting and amusing webcast experience – one guy was taking a nap on camera, while others supped coffee and tappd their feet. It should come as no surprise – the Urban Coffee Co. people have always been big supporters of electronic music. The place includes a DJ stand, and co-owner Josh Greenwood encourages customers to bring their own vinyl and spin on the open turntables. Not on Thursday night though. This being a coffee shop, and it not being particularly late at night, the music remained pretty chill throughout. DJ AvA (real name Heather McGuigan) includes Beth Orton, Madonna, the B-52’s, Daftpunk and David Byrne among her list of influences, so you know that she’s capable of both whipping up a storm and also […]

    The post City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co. appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County

    CNN has a message to all prospective landlords: Head to Wayne County! Occupancy and rental rates are increasing, the report says, creating an opportunity for serious returns on investments. In fact, after comparing the median sales price of homes to average monthly rents in nearly 1,600 counties, RealtyTrac found that Detroit’s Wayne County offers landlords the best return on their investment in the nation. Investors who buy homes in the metro area can expect a 30% gross annual return from rents. That’s triple the national average of 10%. RealtyTrac, an online real estate information company, says the county offers investors low prices for larger homes — with a median price of $45,000. “We’ve got some steals here,” said Rachel Saltmarshall, a real estate agent and immediate past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, told CNN. “There’s a six-bedroom, 6,000 square-foot home in a historic district selling for $65,000.” For more, read the entire report here.

    The post Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit

    This Saturday, audiophiles across the world will venture out to their favorite independent record stores in search of limited releases that quickly become collectors items. The third Saturday of April marks the fairly new international holiday Record Store Day. There are certainly dos and don’ts to know for RSD — like where to shop, and how to shop. That’s right, there is an etiquette to shopping on Record Store Day and violating that code makes you look like a real asshole. In my experience of celebrating Record Store Day, I’ve seen stores use a few different tactics as far as stocking the special releases. Some establishments will set up a table, somewhere in the store, where a few shoppers at a time can flip through records in a calm and contained manner. Other places will have a similar setup, with all the releases at a table, but shoppers ask the store employees for the releases they want. It’s like a record nerd stock exchange. This process gets loud, slightly confusing and incredibly annoying — this is where elbows start getting thrown. Then, there are places that put the releases on the shelves, usually categorized by size — twelve inches with the twelve inches, seven inches with the seven inches and […]

    The post The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled

    The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which was supposed to be making a triumphant return this year, has been canceled. A statement on the website says that the festival will be back in 2015. Back in November, Ford Field hosted an announcement party for DEMF, where it was revealed that a new DEMF festival would take place at Campus Martius Park in Detroit over the July 4th weekend. “I’m proud to be involved in the biggest and best electronic music festival in the world,” said Juan Atkins. “The future’s here. This is techno scene.” Not the immediate future, apparently. The DEMF people claim that the M-1 rail construction is partially to blame for the cancellation/12-month-postponement. Read the full statement here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards

    Despite a turbulent 2013 which saw Metro Times change owners, move buildings and change editors twice, we picked up eight awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Awards on Wednesday night. The big winner was Robert Nixon, design manager, who picked up a first place for “Feature Page Design (Class A)” for our Josh Malerman cover story, first for “Cover Design (Class A)” for our Halloween issue (alongside illustrator John Dunivant), and a second in that same category for our annual Lust issue. In the news categories, our esteemed former news editor and current contributing writer Curt Guyette won third in “General News Reporting” and third in “Best Consumer/Watchdog” – both Class A – for the Fairground Zero and Petcoke Series respectively. Music & Culture Editor Brett Callwood placed third for his Josh Malerman cover story in the “Best Personality Profile (Class A)” category, and former editor Bryan Gottlieb picked up a couple of Class C awards for “Editorial Writing” and “Headline Writing” (third and second, respectively). We were also pleased to learn that our investigative reporter Ryan Felton won first place and an honorable mention for work published while at the Oakland Press. The MT ship is steady now, […]

    The post Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Stir It Up

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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