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    The post Detroit group Feral Ground is out to prove hip-hop is alive and well appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law

    Much has been made about Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s decision this week to transfer authority of the city’s water department to Mayor Mike Duggan. In what is the most interesting read on the situation, Jason Stanley, professor of philosophy at Yale, pens an analysis on Michigan’s novel emergency manager law on the New York Times Opinionator blog. Stanley deconstructs Michigan’s grand experiment in governance by addressing two questions: Has the EM law resulted in policy that maximally serves the public good? And, is the law consistent with basic principles of democracy? Stanley ties in examples of Plato, James Madison’s Federalist Papers, and Nazi political theorist Carl Schmitt. A short excerpt: Plato was a harsh critic of democracy, a position that derived from the fact that his chief value for a society was social efficiency. In Plato’s view, most people are not capable of employing their autonomy to make the right choices, that is, choices that maximize overall efficiency. Michigan is following Plato’s recommendation to handle the problems raised by elections. Though there are many different senses of “liberty” and “autonomy,” none mean the same thing as “efficiency.” Singapore is a state that values efficiency above all. But by no stretch of […]

    The post Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Where to meet a baby dinosaur this week

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    The post Where to meet a baby dinosaur this week appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit website offers stats, updates on city operations

    Interested in reading about what Detroit accomplishes on a week-to-week basis that’s produced by the city itself? Great. You can do that now, here, at the Detroit Dashboard. Every Thursday morning, the city will publish an update to the dashboard because Mayor Mike Duggan loves metrics, even if the data might be hard to come by. According to Duggan’s office, the dashboard will provide data on how many LED street lights were installed, how many vacant lots were mowed, how much blight was removed, and more. This week, the city says it has sold 13 site lots through, removed 570 tons of illegal dumping, and filed 57 lawsuits against abandoned property owners.  

    The post Detroit website offers stats, updates on city operations appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Long John Silver’s makes nod to Nancy Whiskey in YouTube commercial

    We don’t know about you, but usually Nancy Whiskey and Long John Silver’s aren’t two concepts we’d place in the same sentence. However, the international fast food fish fry conglomerate made a nod to the Detroit dive in their latest YouTube commercial. LJS is offering free fish fries on Saturday, August 2, which is the promotion the commercial is attempting to deliver. But, we think we’ll just go to Nancy Whiskey instead.

    The post Long John Silver’s makes nod to Nancy Whiskey in YouTube commercial appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Michigan’s women-only music fest still shuns trans women

    We came across an interesting item this week: Apparently, a music festival with the name “Michfest” is quietly oriented as a “Women-Only Festival Exclusively for ‘Women Born Women.’” It seems a strange decision to us. If you wanted to have a women-only music festival, why not simply proclaim loud and clear that it is for all sorts of women? But if you really wanted to become a lightning rod for criticisms about transphobia, organizers have found the perfect way to present their festival. Now, we know that defenders of non-cisgender folks have it tough. The strides made by gays and lesbians (and bisexuals) in the last 20 years have been decisive and dramatic. But the people who put the ‘T’ in LGBT have reason to be especially defensive, facing a hostile culture and even some disdain from people who should be their natural allies. That said, sometimes that defensiveness can cause some activists to go overboard; when we interviewed Dan Savage a couple years ago, he recalled his “glitter bombing” and said it was due to the “the narcissism of small differences,” adding that “if you’re playing the game of who is the most victimized, attacking your real enemies doesn’t prove you’re most victimized, claiming you […]

    The post Michigan’s women-only music fest still shuns trans women appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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An icon passes: Faruq Z. Bey

Saxophonist-composer-poet symbolized a movement

Photo: , License: N/A

Those he touched wanted to share in his wake, to talk about the way his music had knocked them down or opened them up or raised their intellects — or touched them spiritually as well as musically. How he personified a creative essence or sound or a scene or an era — or even a city.

Faruq Z. Bey was the leader and central figure in Griot Galaxy, the group that, through the 1970s and 1980s, defined the jazz avant-garde more than any other in Detroit. 

In their early days, they were regulars at Cobb's Corner (at the corner of Cass and Willis), along with groups led by Marcus Belgrave and Lyman Woodard and others. But even in that scene, Griot had its own niche, with 10 or so musicians crowded onstage, sounding like even more with an approach that borrowed from Sun Ra, the Art Ensemble of Chicago and others on the cutting edge.

"They had a small, highly energetic and very supportive group of people who loved what they were doing ... a lot of artists, painters, a lot of poets, a lot of writers were interested in the band," the writer Kofi Natambu said for a 2003 profile of Bey. And along with the music, Natambu recalled, the audience was drawn to the "the visionary aspect of what Griot Galaxy was doing." 

They distilled their sound (three-sax, bass, drum) and stage presence around 1980 — Bey plus Tony Holland, David McMurray, Jaribu Shahid and Tani Tabbal. With Eastern and African garb and metallic face paint, an aura of ritual, and music that was intensely — and sometimes hypnotically — rhythmic, they were a band that should've made it out of Detroit, an avant-garde band that could reach fans who might not otherwise be listening to the style at all.

And Griot Galaxy might've become more widely known outside of Detroit but not for a mid-1980s motorcycle crash that left Bey first comatose and then partially paralyzed. The band made appearances with and without the recovering Faruq, and finally dissolved in acrimony. 

Post-Griot, Bey re-emerged slowly, mainly in the last decade, leading his own groups and collaborating with others, particularly the Northwoods Improvisers; Griot left behind two full LPs; Bey recorded nearly a dozen with the Improvisers and continued to influence younger musicians. 

More than a musician, he was a poet, a philosopher and more an old-school philologist than a modern linguist. He could digress on the word "hey" in conversation, and deliver a treatise on a more loaded word like "jazz." ("Avant-garde," by the way, he wasn't fond of, citing its military origins: advance troops tend to get wiped out in clash.) 

Faruq, who turned 70 on Feb. 4, had been in ill health with emphysema for many years; his oxygen tank was a constant companion. He had performed as recently as April with the group Box Deserter in Hamtramck. He was to be featured in the Don Was Detroit All-Star Revue as part of the Concert of Colors in July. His book Toward a "Ratio"nal Aesthetic was to be reissued this fall in conjunction with an exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit on Afro-futurism (a term that fit Griot Galaxy and Bey perfectly). 

He'd been in contact with friends on Thursday, but couldn't be reached Friday, raising concerns. He was subsequently found dead at his Detroit home on Saturday, apparently of natural causes; no cause of death has been determined.

Tuesday afternoon, 250 or so mourners gathered at the Muslim Mosque and Community Center, off Davison near the Lodge, to pay respects before Faruq's burial at Knollwood Cemetery in Canton. There were numerous remembrances of Bey the artist and philosopher and friend. Performance poet and artist Ann Holdreith recalled the time he explained that he'd once had ambitions to become an automotive designer "until I heard Coltrane and it ruined me.”

And although even the most casual acquaintance would know that Islam had been important to Faruq's life, few of his secular-world friends seemed to know that he was considered one of the founders of orthodox Islam in African-American Detroit in the early '70s.

According to his obituary, the First African Primal Rhythm Arkestra and the Bey Family — which are at the root of the Griot Galaxy story — also led to the genesis of the Masjid As Salaam, with Faruq as a founding member along with Imam Muhammad Jalil Bey, Imam Mubarrak Mutakalim and Imam Abdul Hakim Halim.

With those gathered nodding heads in agreement, one of the imams on Tuesday described Faruq as someone who "spoke and acted as a person with a Harvard education as opposed to someone from the west side of Detroit.”


Meanwhile, comments and reflections on Faruq's life continue to be added to the Music Blahg post started Saturday, along with links to videos and audios, including a link to a rare 1984 video recording of Griot Galaxy. These are excerpts from the comment thread:


From James Cornish, trumpeter, who last played with Bey in April: 

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