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  • 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.

  • ICYMI: Forbes rates Detroit #9 on its “America’s Most Creative Cities” list

    Yes, it’s true. Forbes says Detroit is one of America’s most creative cities: “We ranked these places based on four metrics: activity per capita on project-funding platforms Kickstarter and Indiegogo and music sites Bandcamp and ReverbNation. The goal was to capture organic creativity, since many artistic and musical types have “day jobs” outside of creative pursuits.” The Forbes list sandwiches #9 Detroit between #8 Seattle and #10 Oakland, Calif. If you are watching the art and culture explosion happening right now in Detroit, you probably think we should rank higher than #2 Boston and #1 San Francisco, if only for the fact that it’s actually affordable to create here and there is space for everyone to be creative. But hey, those metrics weren’t part of the equation. And there’s always next year.

    The post ICYMI: Forbes rates Detroit #9 on its “America’s Most Creative Cities” list appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Food trucks go to the dogs

    Today, starting at 10am, Milo’s Kitchen Treat Truck will be swinging by the  Cherry Hill Village at Preservation Park on  N. Roosevelt St. in Canton. They’ll be serving the pups (“gour-mutts,” as Milo’s calls them) treats and the dog parents the opportunity of “family portraits.” Milo’s is on a cross-country food truck trip, promoting their “grilled burger bites” and “chicken meatballs” to pup parents from L.A. to NYC, with stops in between, including Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, the Carolinas, and Arkansas. But watch out! Milo’s Kitchen Treat Truck markets “real chicken and beef home-style dog treats” that are are “wholesome” and “authentic” without “artificial flavors or colors-made right here in the USA.” Authentic, processed food that is. Remember what George Carlin said about “home-style”? Their treats are also packed with soy, TVP, wheat flour, tapioca, rice, and sugar–fillers that make the meat go far and aren’t the best for your pup. They’re also packed with preservatives, like sodium erythorbate, nitrates, BHA, sodium tripolyphosphate, and potassium sorbate. Small amounts are probably ok, and no doubt the pup will love it, the same way it’s easy for humans to love carb- and sugar- laden, processed and preserved, treats.  

    The post Food trucks go to the dogs appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Former Tigers Dave Rozema and Ike Blessitt to honor Mark “The Bird” Fidrych

    Coming up on August 16, former Detroit Tigers Dave Rozema and Ike Blessitt will team up with the Navin Field Grounds Crew and Metro Times‘ own Dave Mesrey to honor legend Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. The festivities, known as the annual “Bird Bash,” will be held at the infamous Nemo’s Bar & Grill, and will benefit The Bird’s favorite charity, the Wertz Warriors, and also the Mark Fidrych Foundation. For more information, check out their website or Facebook page.

    The post Former Tigers Dave Rozema and Ike Blessitt to honor Mark “The Bird” Fidrych appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • First Little League game at Navin Field today

    Today Navin Field (the Old Tiger Stadium) hosts its first Little League game on a new field made just to host the youngsters! Here’s a photo of the game happening right now, courtesy Tom Derry and Metro Times‘ copy editor extraordinaire, Dave Mesrey: Stop by the site (corner of Michigan and Trumbull) today to watch history in the making!

    The post First Little League game at Navin Field today appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Twerk du Soleil shakes up Detroit

    Former American Idol contestant Vonzell Solomon weighs in on twerking, natural hair & CEO status. In 2005, recording artist Vonzell “Baby V” Solomon embarked on a journey that changed her life. At the age of 20, Vonzell made it to the top three on American Idol before she was eliminated. But that was not the beginning nor the end of her journey to stardom. Vonzell is one of more than two dozen artists on tour with YouTube sensation Todrick Hall, who is a former Idol contestant as well. Todrick gained notoriety for his fast food drive-thru songs and also for producing parody videos  —  based on popular Broadway musicals and songs. His tour, uniquely entitled Twerk Du Soleil (translation: twerk of the sun), is a combination of his popular YouTube spoofs. Both Vonzell and her ratchet alter ego,Boonquisha Jenkins, made an appearance in Twerk Du Soleil,which stopped in Detroit July 23 at Saint Andrews Hall. Boonquisha opened the show by facilitating a twerking competition among the audience. Next, Vonzell made a reappearance singing a fan favorite – Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” Later, Boonquisha came on stage screaming “It’s so cold in the D! You gotta be from the D to […]

    The post Twerk du Soleil shakes up Detroit 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's parents were social activists, yet they still had entry to Nigeria's polite, bourgeois society. Fela totally rejected it as a colonial mind-set, and preferred what he saw as traditional African values. The song "Gentleman" lays out his stance: "I no be gentleman at all, I be Africa man original." Middle-class Nigerians were horrified when their daughters wandered over to Kalakuta or the Shrine where Fela reveled in all-consuming sensuality. His appetites were legendary. 

"He liked to eat," says Stein. "When I ordered food for Fela, I would order six meals. He would wolf it all down. He liked to eat; he liked to fuck, a lot, and play music."

In 1978, to mark the anniversary of the attack on Kalakuta, he wed 27 women at the rebuilt compound — a repudiation of European marriage and mores in favor of polygamy. He pointed out that European men cheated in their marriages, and said they should bring their mistresses home to live with their wives. Later he developed a revolving system of 12 wives at a time before renouncing marriage altogether in a mass divorce.

For years he bought space in newspapers to print his controversial opinion pieces; he formed his own political party and was blocked in an attempt to run for president in 1979.

"He was on a mission for the mental liberation of Africans," Ghariokwu says. "The colonial mentality has been a problem in Africa for hundreds of years. Presently, it's self-colonization bringing the same forces to bear. He was a complex character, an egalitarian, a social critic. He was so brave in taking on the military governments of Nigeria. He didn't give up."

But there was a price to pay. In addition to numerous beatings, he was jailed for 20 months in 1985-86 on trumped-up charges of currency smuggling. Stein says Fela was arrested more than 200 times. He was banned from Ghana after a riot broke out during a concert there. In 1993, he was charged with murder but was exonerated after several months in jail. But that year he stopped recording and began to fade from view. In 1997, he was arrested for possession and drug trafficking. Months later, Fela died from conditions related to AIDS.


In 1999, Universal Music France remastered 45 Fela albums and released them on 26 CDs. Since then, a number of other re-releases (including a recent Questlove-curated vinyl box), a film, and the music careers of Fela's sons Femi and Seun have helped keep his music and ideas alive in popular culture, as have a proliferation of Afro-beat bands, seemingly in every big city in America. Fela!, which started out as workshop collaboration — now backed by Jay-Z, and Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith — has taken his posthumous popularity to an unprecedented high.

Locally, Fela! is something of a programming departure for Music Hall, which is more known for jazz acts and Tyler Perry plays. Most Tony Award-winning shows land at the Fisher or Fox theaters, but Music Hall President and Artistic Director Vince Paul saw Fela! before it hit Broadway and was determined to bring it to his stage. 

"Our mission is to evolve culture and discuss issues through dance and drama," Paul says. "There are parallels between what is happening in Lagos and what is happening in Detroit — social injustice, greed, who's the teacher. It was so uncanny. I thought, 'Detroit has got to see this.' It became a hassle. It probably wouldn't have if the play hadn't gone Broadway." 

In fact, the Fela! phenomenon isn't just at Music Hall. Paul created partnerships with dozens of local organizations and as a result there are Fela-related events all over town. The Wright Museum of African American History and the Carr Cultural Arts Center have exhibits of art inspired by Fela. Ghariokwu lectured on African art aesthetics at the Detroit Institute of Arts last week. Wayne State University, Wayne County Community College District, the University Music Society at the University of Michigan and some area high schools are all hosting events related to Fela and his music. In addition to the coup of bringing in the show, Music Hall is creating a model of how to engage the community in productions.

"Arts are important," Paul says. "A revolution could start over a play. I ran it for three weeks as opposed to a week because I felt like the message wouldn't stick around if it ran for just a week. If we could have it for two months, it would have been better. It's fun; it's great; it's going to stick in your brain. I wonder if we aren't teaching a lesson of what we can do if we work together."

Paul sounds like he's ready for one of those meetings at the Kalakuta Republic, where Fela and his compatriots wrangled out their ideas. Fela's life work was a struggle for the disenfranchised. And if a play about his life can bring a community together, then maybe that will engender a smile from Fela beyond the great divide.

"I always think of him laughing," Stein says. "I consider Fela to be a social engineer. He couldn't have gone through all the punishment and sacrifices that he made unless he was full of love. His message was universal."

That's why people in Detroit should be able to smile, even laugh, at a play about a musician from Nigeria. He's universal. 


Fela! runs through March 4, at Music Hall, 350 Madison Ave., Detroit; 313-887-8501. Moving to His Own Beat — Fela: The Man, The Movement, The Music is on exhibit through April 1, at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, 315 E. Warren Ave., Detroit; 313-494-5800. Say Yeah Yeah: A Felatastic Detroit Artists Exhibition is on display through April 9, at the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center, 311 E. Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-965-8430; works by Lemi Ghariokwu are on display there through Feb. 18. 

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